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Experts see busy Labor Day weekend for Las Vegas

Updated September 2, 2021 - 2:44 pm

Will tourists travel to Las Vegas over the three-day Labor Day weekend for a final summer fling like they normally do?

Or will the calamities of COVID-19, wildfires and the aftermath of a hurricane keep some people at home?

With the start of Labor Day weekend hours away, many Las Vegas tourism insiders are leaning toward a busy time for Southern Nevada, even with some of the traditional visitation prognosticators staying on the sidelines this year.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority usually bases its visitation projections on recent historical data — and there isn’t much to go on since the coronavirus pandemic began in March 2020. In previous years, Las Vegas usually was assured that more than 300,000 people would be arriving here to say goodbye to summer.

But the convention authority remains confident that the weekend will draw solid visitation.

“We look forward to welcoming visitors to Las Vegas for the unofficial end of summer,” LVCVA spokeswoman Lori Nelson-Kraft said.

“We anticipate enthusiastic crowds over Labor Day weekend with the destination hitting on all cylinders offering an ‘Only Vegas’ experience that includes an incredible variety of greatly missed A-list live entertainment,” she said.

Potential obstacles

Nevertheless, there are some issues creating possible challenges for the holiday this year.

This year, in addition to mask-wearing requirements at resorts and restaurants resulting from the battle against COVID-19, some Californians are dealing with wildfires that have threatened homes and property.

And east of the Mississippi River, residents of Louisiana and other parts of the South who may have contemplated a plane trip to Las Vegas may now be dealing with the aftermath from another disaster — Hurricane Ida and the flooding left in its wake.

Another tourism prognosticator, AAA, opted this year not to make any predictions about how many people will be on the road for the Labor Day weekend. On Wednesday, the organization said holidays are evaluated annually to determine whether there’s enough national, regional and local media interest in travel data to justify a report. This year, the answer was no for Labor Day.

TripAdvisor recently said a survey of customers determined that 31 percent of Americans plan to travel over the holiday weekend but that 22 percent still remain undecided. The 31 percent figure was comparable to 32 percent in 2020 and 35 percent in 2019.

Positive signs

Two local tourism analysts are bullish on this weekend’s visitation.

“The summer of 2021 turned out to be much busier than expected,” noted Amanda Belarmino, an assistant professor at the William F. Harrah College of Hospitality at UNLV.

“While there are numerous macroeconomic factors influencing travel right now, including the delta variant and natural disasters, I would still expect Labor Day to be busy and profitable,” she said.

“Mask mandates have been reinstated in most places, so that probably wouldn’t be new or unexpected for any travelers,” Belarmino continued. “With other places requiring vaccine cards and ID just for indoor dining, Las Vegas really is middle of the road in terms of requirements, safe without being intrusive. I think this will continue to spell success for Labor Day weekend and the beginning of fall.”

Jeremy Aguero, principal for Las Vegas-based Applied Analysis, expects a strong showing for the weekend.

“We don’t expect the Labor Day weekend is going to break records, but we do anticipate it’s going to be fairly strong, like comparable-to-2019 strong because that’s how we’ve been trending,” Aguero said.

He said most Las Vegas visitors don’t nail down their final plans until a week before departure. The June and July statistics for visitation, average daily room rates and gaming win make him optimistic about the near future.

“We’re expecting that the Labor Day weekend will continue the pattern of recovery that we’ve seen over the better part of the past two months,” he said. “It may be moderated slightly as a result of national and world events that are creating some degree of uncertainty among consumers.”

Another positive sign that Las Vegas is headed for a robust Labor Day weekend: The hotel room rates are up, a show of anticipated high demand.

A survey of 45 room rates for Las Vegas hotels listed on Hotels.com Wednesday found an average rate over the weekend of $193 a night, which doesn’t include taxes and resort fees.

That’s 27 percent higher than July’s average daily room rate of $152.

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

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