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As expected, Las Vegas visitation hit all-time lows in April

Updated May 29, 2020 - 6:12 pm

Visitation to Las Vegas cratered as expected in April. And it isn’t expected to look much better in May.

But with the region’s megaresorts reopening next week, June already shows signs of promise.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority on Friday said visitor volume fell by 97 percent from April 2019 to 106,900 and convention traffic fell 100 percent with zero attendees.

“With the vast majority of the destination’s hotel rooms temporarily unavailable to book, occupancy was 1.7 percent while the average daily room rates among those properties that were open came in at approximately $60,” the organization said in its April executive summary.

Casinos were closed March 17 when Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered non-essential businesses shuttered in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Nevada.

Because resorts won’t re-open until Thursday, the entire month of May should be devoid of visitation as well.

The LVCVA explained that non-gaming hotels mainly were used by people visiting friends in Southern Nevada with availability for transient lodging.

Visitation should pick up in June with higher-than-expected demand in the early going.

Three of the largest gaming companies, Caesars Entertainment Corp., MGM Resorts International and Las Vegas Sands Corp., announced more room openings than initially planned. Caesars announced it would open Harrah’s Las Vegas on June 5, MGM added the MGM Grand and Signature to its Thursday list along with Bellagio and New York-New York, and Sands will open rooms in its Palazzo tower in addition to The Venetian.

But discussions by the LVCVA board of directors and the state Gaming Control Board indicate conventions are still a big question mark. While demand appears strong for meetings, trade shows and conventions in 2021, according to numerous sources, the outlook for the rest of 2020 is unknown. In quarterly earnings reports from Las Vegas Sands and MGM, executives indicated long-term convention projections were strong and Steve Hill, president and CEO of the LVCVA, said 2021 had the largest number of convention bookings of any year in history.

Guidelines from Sisolak’s office limit large gatherings to 50 people while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has indicated that the largest of gatherings should be 250. Those are the same guidelines and restrictions that are preventing casinos from opening large showrooms.

The April plunge in tourism wrecked what was promising to be an extraordinary 2020. For the first four months of 2020, visitation is down 38.5 percent to 8.5 million people and convention attendance is off 31.2 percent to 1.7 million.

Occupancy is off 34.9 percentage points to 53.5 percent for the year while the average daily room rate is still up 3.6 percent to $142.62, thanks to strong demand in January and February.

The average daily traffic level on highways leading to Las Vegas is down 22.2 percent to 88,903 vehicles a day estimated. Those counts, provided by the Nevada Department of Transportation, include local traffic using the roads in addition to tourists. The average count at the Nevada-California border for the month was down 26.5 percent to 30,531 vehicles.

Visitor volume also tanked in Mesquite and Laughlin, markets assisted by the LVCVA. Volume fell 97.3 percent to 4,300 in Laughlin and it was down 97.5 percent to 3,100 in Mesquite.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson. Las Vegas Sands operates The Venetian, Palazzo and the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas.

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

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