After two years of gains, Las Vegas sees fewer visitors in April

For the first time in 26 months, Las Vegas visitation fell.

Total visitor volume in April was down 0.9 percent from the same month in 2011, ending the two years of consecutive gains in prior-year comparisons for the monthly Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority count, officials said Tuesday.

A total of 3.3 million tourists came to Las Vegas in April, down from April 2011’s 3.4 million total. Year to date, 13.08 million people have visited the city, up 2.4 percent from 2011’s 12.77 million year-to-date total.

"It’s a good number. Of course, anything larger would be great, but I’m happy to see the middle twos," said Scott Russell, senior manager of research for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, about the year-to-date percent figure.

The tourism authority cited one less weekend in April compared with the month in 2011 as the reason for the drop in visitors. In 2011, April had 10 weekend days compared with eight in 2012.

In its report, Union Gaming’s analysts said April’s numbers were "just OK," but did note that next month’s tabulation of May’s visitor numbers "will benefit from event-driven demand including a Mayweather fight."

April’s citywide hotel and motel occupancy combined also decreased, by 1.2 percent. Year-to-date, total citywide occupancy increased a miniscule 0.1 percent, with hotel occupancy rising year-to-date by 0.6 percent, while motel occupancy’s year-to-date count dropped 3.5 percent.

Weekend stays in April were down 0.5 percent from 2011’s numbers, and midweek occupancy, which usually is greatly supported by convention attendance, also saw a decrease of 0.8 percent. Overall, Las Vegas had 3.9 million occupied hotel-room nights in April, down 0.5 percent from 2011.

Convention attendance in April also was down 4.9 percent in prior-year comparisons to 414,510 from 435,934 in 2011, which affected the midweek stays. Total conventions and meetings held are up 5.5 percent to 1,938 from 1,837.

Although the total is up, those didn’t make up for the loss of the International Sign Association convention, with an estimated attendance of 20,000. However, the show will be back in 2013.

Year-to-date, convention attendance is also down, with 2.03 million attendees in 2012 compared to 2.04 million in 2011. Total conventions and meetings held year-to-date are up a whopping 27.5 percent to 7,716 from 6,052.

"This year we’re seeing more of the smaller shows, that’s why you’re seeing the disparity between the two," said Russell, referring to the drop in convention attendance versus increase in total conventions.

In March, the average daily room rate dropped in prior-year comparisons for the first time since May 2010. April’s average daily rate snapped back and was up 2 percent to $108.42 from $105.67 in 2011. The year-to-date comparisons have remained on a steady climb upward, and April was no different, with the average daily rate increasing 3.4 percent from $105.91 in 2011 to $109.48 in 2012.

The average daily number of vehicles coming into Las Vegas inched forward 0.5 percent in April, from 105,389 a year ago to 105,916 in 2012. The number coming from Southern California on Interstate 15 was up 6.2 percent to 44,610 vehicles from 41,998. Note that vehicle counts include visitor, resident and commercial traffic.

Elsewhere in Clark County, the number of Laughlin visitors fell 8.8 percent, while Mesquite visitation was up 2.6 percent.

"Laughlin continues to have competitive challenges with both Las Vegas and some of the other regional destinations that are around them," Russell said.

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

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