LVCVA expects visitor increase

Las Vegas tourism is expected to increase ever so slightly this Independence Day.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority predicts the city will see 312,000 visitors from Wednesday through the weekend, bringing a nongaming economic impact of $197.5 million. This year’s projection is up 0.6 percent from 2011’s Fourth of July weekend.

Jeremy Handel, a spokesman for the authority, said visitor numbers vary annually because it’s not a holiday on a specific day of the week, such as Memorial Day, and can fall midweek as it does this year.

“We’re hopeful there will be those people who have Wednesday off and stay over the weekend,” Handel said.

Independence Day travel is expected to be up 4.9 percent nationally, according to AAA. The motor club projects that 42.3 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home through the holiday weekend, compared to 40.3 million last year.

The expected 2012 Fourth of July tourism is the highest since 2007, which was about the same. This year represents almost a 42 percent increase over 2009. The holiday travel period is defined as Tuesday, July 3 to Sunday, July 8.

“AAA’s projection for a decade-high number of Independence Day travelers is being fed by Americans’ appetite for travel, a mid-week holiday and lower gas prices,” says Bill Sutherland, vice president of AAA Travel Services.

A steady decrease in gasoline prices – $3.32 per gallon for regular compared to $3.56 per gallon for regular in 2011, according to a national survey – is expected to play a role in weekend travel, AAA says. About 35.5 million people plan to take a road trip, making up 84 percent of all Independence Day travelers, and a 4 percent increase over the 34.1 million who traveled by automobile in 2011.

Nationwide, more than 3.2 million leisure travelers will fly during the holiday, a more than 9 percent increase over the 2.9 million air travelers in 2011. This year’s increase is the third consecutive year of rising Independence Day holiday air travel volume, following the decade-low 1.4 million air travelers in 2009.

With 312,000 people expected in Las Vegas this weekend, hotel rates are up – with wide variation by property. At Red Rock Resort, for instance, a deluxe room with two queens runs $425 on the Fourth of July, but drops to $165. At Caesars Palace, a deluxe king room in the Forum Tower costs $135 on the Fourth of July, but jumps to $403 on Friday and Saturday. The JW Marriott, however, kept its rates constant. Wednesday and Thursday guests will pay $129 for two queens and the price rises to $139 on Friday and Saturday.

According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, Independence Day holiday rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to increase 4 percent from 2011, with travelers spending an average of $164 per night, compared to $157 last year.

Of those who choose to spend their holiday in Las Vegas, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority’s Handel says the hotels’ fireworks displays are the big draws. This year, Aliante Station, Green Valley Ranch, Fiesta Rancho, Texas Station, Red Rock Resort and Caesars Palace plan fireworks. Displays are also planned at Henderson’s Mission Hills Park and at Lake Las Vegas.

All of the displays are free – which fits nicely with a new trend: Americans plan to spend less on Independence Day related travel, food, beverages, entertainment, fireworks and other items.

A survey released by Visa Inc. found that Fourth of July spending is expected to drop 12 percent to an average of $191 per household, compared to $216 in 2011. The survey also found that 21 percent of Americans say they won’t spend a dime to celebrate Independence Day this year.

“With most Americans continuing to watch every dollar closely, many have realized that sparklers and flag emblazoned T-shirts are not essential items,” said Jason Alderman, Visa’s Senior Director of Global Financial Education.

Contact reporter Laura Carroll at lcarroll@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4588.

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