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Fewer Las Vegas visitors coming from California, study shows

Updated April 13, 2019 - 7:30 pm

The Las Vegas visitor of 2019 is different from those who came a decade ago, five years ago and even last year.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority monitors the changing face of the Vegas visitor annually so that resorts can react to attract more people to the destination.

Kevin Bagger, vice president of the LVCVA research center, shared highlights of the 2018 Las Vegas Visitor Profile Study with the organization’s board of directors last week, and the research produced almost as many questions as answers.

After reviewing survey results from 3,600 randomly selected visitors, Bagger and his staff must now determine whether some of the 2018 results represent the start of a trend, or an aberration from the norm.

“Some things don’t change,” Bagger told the board. “And some things we don’t want to change. I use this as sort of a monitoring tool to make sure that certain things that are good are staying good and then other things that are changing, we need to be aware of.”

For example, for years, about a quarter of the visitors coming to Las Vegas have come from Southern California with percentages of 27, 25, 27 and 26 from there in the four years since 2014. In 2018, the percentage of visitors from SoCal was 19 percent. Why?

The research staff is kicking around a few theories, and the bottom line is that increased international visitation and more visitors from Arizona and other Western states picked up the slack.

Other nuggets of information from the survey:

— The average age of the Las Vegas visitor is now 45.1, up from 44.3 in 2017 and 44 the year before that, but down from 49.2 in 1998. The overall younger shift explains the trend toward more nightclubs and dayclubs and attractions that appeal to the millennial generation, according to the LVCVA.

— While millennials — people roughly between ages 23 and 38 — represent the greatest number of visitors (38 percent), Generation X — people roughly between ages of 39 and 58 — and baby boomers — people roughly between ages of 59 and 73 — are close behind, with 31 percent and 30 percent, respectively. The silent generation — people over 74 — represent about 1 percent of visitors.

— An estimated 74 percent of visitors gambled during their stay, the same as in 2017 but down from 87 percent in 1998. Among those who gambled, players spent 2.2 hours per day at slots or tables, up from 1.6 hours in 2017 but down from four hours in 1998. Players had an average gaming budget of $527 per trip, down from $541 in 2017 but more than the $469 in 1998.

— Breaking down the gaming numbers by generation paints an interesting portrait of today’s visitor. Which generation played the most among that 74 percent who gambled during their stay? Silent generation (78 percent of their numbers), followed by baby boomers (77 percent), Generation X (75 percent) and millennials (72 percent). Among those who spent 2.2 hours a day gambling, boomers played the most (2.6 hours) followed by Gen X (2.4 hours), the silent generation (2.1 hours) and millennials (1.8 hours). Boomers also had the biggest gambling budget per trip at $736, followed by the silent generation ($611), Gen X ($589) and millennials ($295).

— Where do millennials spend their time and money in Las Vegas? You guessed it, nightclubs and pool parties, with 15 percent going to a nightclub and 7 percent to a pool party. The percentage split was 3 percent and 2 percent, respectively, for Gen X with nothing by the silent generation and baby boomers. Millennials also had the highest percentage of visitors making a trip to downtown Las Vegas during their stays, 55 percent.

— In 2018, a Las Vegas trip budget was split with 32 percent for gaming, 26 percent for food and beverage, 16 percent for lodging, 12 percent for shopping, 6 percent for local transportation, 4 percent for shows and entertainment, 2 percent for sightseeing and 2 percent for “other.” Ten years ago, the split was 50 percent for gaming, 17 percent for food and beverage, 13 percent for lodging, 10 percent for shopping, 6 percent for local transportation, 3 percent for shows and entertainment, 1 percent for sightseeing and nothing for other.

Those who track visitation numbers know there’s an elephant in the room when it comes to visitors’ viewpoints. What, if anything, are resort and parking fees having on visitation?

One of Bagger’s associates, Scott Russell, director of the LVCVA research center, said the organization hasn’t compiled enough data to make a determination as to the effects of resort fees, although 24 percent of those dissatisfied with their Las Vegas visit — up from 8 percent in 2016 (dissatisfaction questions are only asked every other year) — cited “too expensive” as a reason for not enjoying their stays.

In addition, when surveyors are “standing in front of a visitor asking, they may or may not have stayed at a hotel that had a fee, or they may not have actually been the person that paid the room bill and may not have known about the fee,” Russell said. “We tried to keep that separate from the question other than asking them about their rate absent any fees.”

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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