For the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, it’s all about the research.
It’s something that President and CEO Rossi Ralenkotter has driven into the culture of the organization that markets and promotes Southern Nevada to the world.
Should Las Vegas run television spots, newspaper advertisements or maintain a bold online presence? Do the research.
Should Las Vegas focus on its core market in Southern California, work harder to attract people from cities west of the Mississippi or plant the flag in big markets overseas? Do the research.
Should Las Vegas tailor its message to the hard-core gambler, the club-hopper who may or may not play in casinos or the conventioneer who may someday come back to town with his wife and kids? Do the research.
The authority conducts research by crunching numbers on statistics that are gathered every month in surveys. Analysts watch for increases or declines in visitation, occupancy rates and room rates.
They also pay researchers to get inside the heads of the people who make it all possible — the tourists.
The authority recently published its annual Las Vegas Visitor Profile, a 103-page report dedicated to gauging the behavior of the 40 million people who come here every year.
GLS Research, which has offices in Las Vegas and San Francisco, is contracted to prepare the report, which involves one-on-one interviews with tourists before they leave Las Vegas.
Gathering data for the report is a neverending project. Surveyors are out every month and randomly collect 300 interviews. GLS has refined the process to the level that it can determine whether a measure has at least a 95 percent chance of being statistically significant.
To keep the length of the survey manageable, surveyors don’t ask every question every year. Some of the most important questions are asked every year, but others are rotated every other year.
When the report is compiled, analysts note trends. For years, local resorts have seen a steady drop in gambling and in the past decade, they’re collecting more revenue from rooms, food and beverage and entertainment than from the casino.
Does that mean there are fewer baby boomers and more Gen-Xers and millennials coming to Las Vegas? That’s why the survey drills down into the age and demographics of visitors and the surveyors ask questions about how much money they budget for gambling, how many hours a day they dedicate to casino play and, most important, whether they were satisfied with their visit.
It wasn’t too surprising to learn this year that the average Las Vegas visitor is getting younger. That’s why casinos are dedicating more space to nightclubs, dayclubs and pool parties with price points most oldsters won’t touch.
It was somewhat surprising to find that over the past five years a visitor’s average gambling budget has steadily increased, even though most visitors to Las Vegas have a casino that’s much closer to their homes. The novelty of casino gambling no longer exists, yet people have planned to spend more every year they come, likely the result of an improved economy.
What’s more fascinating than the results of the survey is the interpretation that must be done to determine the best way to take advantage of the data.
With that in mind, here are a few other nuggets that came out of the 2013 Las Vegas Visitors Profile:
■ There are plenty of avenues marketers use to attract visitors to Las Vegas. Possibly the biggest mark of success is when a first-time visitor returns less than a year later. The study showed that of all surveyed Las Vegas visitors in 2013, 85 percent were repeat visitors and 15 percent were first-timers. The number of first-timers was down from 18 percent in 2010.
■ Among all visitors, 20 percent came to Las Vegas once in the past five years, 30 percent came two or three times, 16 percent came four or five times, 19 percent came six to 10 times and 15 percent came more than 10 times.
■ In 2013, 41 percent of visitors said they came to Las Vegas on a vacation or pleasure trip, 15 percent said they came specifically to gamble (a five-year high percentage), 9 percent came for a special event, 12 percent came to see family and friends, 7 percent were here for a convention or trade show, 7 percent were here on other business and 4 percent each said they were passing through town or here for a wedding.
■ A higher percentage of repeat visitors — 17 percent — came exclusively to gamble compared with first-time visitors, 4 percent.
■ The percentage of visitors coming for conventions and trade shows has steadily dropped since 2010. In 2010, it was 11 percent; in 2013, it was 7 percent.
■ In 2013, 61 percent of conventioneers said they were more interested in attending their show because the event was in Las Vegas while 37 percent said the location made no difference. The survey said 2 percent were less interested in the show because it was in Las Vegas.
■ Forty-four percent of visitors attending a convention or trade show brought someone with them who didn’t attend the show when they came.
■ Most of 2013’s visitors needed two weeks to a month to plan and book reservations — 29 percent. The next biggest group, 26 percent, planned one to two months out while 14 percent spent more than three months, 13 percent each needed two to three months and one to two weeks. Five percent of visitors planned their stays less than a week out.
■ A statistic that hasn’t changed much in five years: 42 percent arrived by plane, 58 percent by car, bus or recreational vehicle.
■ Once people get to Las Vegas, they use multiple means to get around — which is why these percentages don’t add up to 100. Visitors said they walked (52 percent), drove their own cars (50 percent), took a taxi (27 percent), rode in a bus, a shuttle or rented a car (12 percent each), rode the monorail (6 percent) or rode in a limousine (1 percent).
■ Three percent of visitors decided on where to stay after they arrived.
■ Fifteen percent of 2013’s visitors used a travel agent to assist them with arrangements, the highest percentage in five years.
■ Social media information figured in trip-planning decisions for 30 percent of 2013 visitors. That’s up from 19 percent in 2012 and 7 percent in 2011.
■ In 2013, 64 percent went online for information to plan trips. The percentage of online planners has increased steadily since 2009 (49 percent).
■ Most visitors used a hotel’s website to book room reservations in 2013, (38 percent) more than triple the number of No. 2 expedia.com. Hotel site bookings were far ahead of hotels.com, lasvegas.com, vegas.com, Priceline, Orbitz, Hotwire and Travelocity.
■ Three in 10 visitors went to downtown Las Vegas in 2013, the lowest percentage in five years. Most of those who went did so to see the Fremont Street Experience.
■ The most popular side trip from Las Vegas was Grand Canyon National Park (61 percent of all visitors) followed closely by Hoover Dam (57 percent).