Study finds Las Vegas visitors spent less in 2009

Visitors to Las Vegas wagered much less in 2009 than in previous years, according to a report from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

The report, called the Las Vegas Visitor Profile, mirrors studies conducted by the state, Wall Street and other gaming industry analysts. It shows the average gaming budget per visitor per trip was $481.57, down roughly 9 percent from $531.98 per trip a year ago and off some 26 percent from the figure’s peak in 2006.

The study, which was released over the weekend and has been done for more than 30 years, details visitor trends. Past reports found the average visitor spent $555.64 on gambling in 2007, $651.94 in 2006 and $626.50 in 2005.

“The figures paint sort of the same picture we’ve seen in other studies,” Kevin Bagger, the convention authority’s senior director of marketing, said Monday.

He said tourism officials were happy, however, that the recession hasn’t changed visitors’ impressions of Las Vegas. Roughly 94 percent said they were “very” satisfied with their trip to Las Vegas, up from 93 percent last year. Nine out of 10 visitors surveyed said they would recommend Las Vegas to friends and family.

“That shows us that despite the recession, the experience hasn’t been impacted,” Bagger said. “That was an important figure. The economy may be impacting their spending, but they are still having a good time.”

The satisfaction figure is still down from 96 percent in 2006, but up from 89 percent in 2007.

The percentage of Las Vegas visitors who said they gambled while in Las Vegas was 83 percent in 2009, a five-year low and down from 85 percent in 2008 and 84 percent in 2007. Players spent an average of 3.2 hours a day gambling, also a five-year low.

The average expenditures by visitors per trip in all major categories declined during 2009, the study found.

Hotel spending per night was $75.78, down 25 percent, the average cost of a tour package was $640.29, down 14 percent, and the total spent on restaurants was $250.32, down 8 percent.

Spending on shopping was $101.97, down 16 percent, and spending on shows was $39.87, down 23 percent.

The visitor profile did include some slightly positive signs. First-time Las Vegas visitors increased 1 percent, as opposed to the 3 percent drop in 2008. Some 40 percent of those surveyed said the primary reason for coming to Las Vegas was for a vacation or pleasure, up 1 percent from a year ago, but still far off the 61 percent who answered positively to the question in 2005.

Union Gaming Group Principal Bill Lerner told clients Monday that tourism indicators are showing some signs of recovery in early 2010, including improvements in gaming revenues, airline passengers, visitation and average daily hotel room rates.

“While these metrics are clearly indicative of a down market, we remain encouraged by the metrics seen as 2009 ended and 2010 began,” Lerner said. “We are looking for a big February, when gaming revenues are reported on what could have been a record Chinese New Year period.”

He predicted Las Vegas’ revenue per available room, a nontraditional figure Wall Street uses to view profitability, could grow 4 percent this year.

Contact reporter Howard Stutz at hstutz@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3871.

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