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High gas prices not stopping Las Vegas visitors for July 4th

Updated June 29, 2022 - 8:02 pm

Despite high gas prices and high temperatures, Las Vegas can expect an influx of tourists this weekend ready for a three-day holiday.

How many people will be in Las Vegas for the long Independence Day weekend is difficult to predict, officials say. But tourism industry professionals say it’s best to anticipate a high number because hotel room rates appear to be holding steady with rate estimates earlier this month with the average price just under $200 a night.

Additionally, airline seat capacity at Harry Reid International Airport appears likely to grow this summer after a robust May, leading airport officials to believe “it’ll likely be quite busy” this weekend.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority has no historic data that would indicate how many people are expected to visit Southern Nevada over the July 4th weekend, but long weekends and holidays traditionally have drawn more than 300,000 people.

Gas prices affect projection

AAA Nevada says higher gas prices this year aren’t likely to deter an estimated 47.9 million people nationwide — including 42 million of them by car — from traveling this weekend,.

“We started seeing demand for travel grow earlier this year and it isn’t tapering off,” said Rolando Flores, senior vice president of membership and travel for AAA Nevada. “Even though things are more expensive, people want to travel and they are finding ways to still take that much-needed break.”

Gasoline prices are running about $2 more per gallon than a year ago.

AAA said of the 47.9 million U.S. travelers — 3.7 percent more than in 2021 — 3.55 million will travel by air and 2.42 million will be on buses, trains or cruise ships, all more than in 2021.

Chris Jones, chief marketing officer for Reid International, said that he has no projections for passenger numbers in and out of the airport this weekend, but noted that passenger volumes have been increasing.

Nearly 4.58 million passengers arrived or departed from the airport in May, the third-best month in airport history, according to Jones. Capacity is expected to grow throughout the summer as airlines serving the airport have published their flight schedules for future months.

“June has even more seats coming into market than May did, and July will then supplant June as our highest seat count month ever,” Jones said. “There have never been more airline seats coming into Las Vegas than what we’re seeing this summer, particularly on the domestic side. International is not yet to pre-pandemic levels. This July 4th is also a true three-day weekend so that could influence people’s ability to travel, as well.

“Based on these factors, we’ll definitely be busier than we were in 2021,” he said. “On seat count alone, the airport has a real chance to push the levels it set in 2019.”

But it’s not a slam dunk that there will be more people, he said, and there are factors figuring into current trends.

“There are also headwinds in play today that didn’t exist three years ago, such as higher airfares due to fuel costs; airline crew challenges across the system; the effects of inflation on household budgets, etc. There are too many variables for me to be making predictions, but the possibility exists that we will see some incredible passenger volume here in the coming days.”

Room rates steady

Room rates at local resorts also seem to be holding true to what the industry was seeing earlier this month.

A June 7 survey of room rates for this Saturday through July 5 indicated the average price of a hotel room in Las Vegas for the Fourth of July weekend was $201.92 a night.

A similar survey conducted Tuesday showed the average price at $198.98 a night over the same holiday period.

The Review-Journal surveyed prices at 89 properties as listed on hotels.com for Saturday, Sunday and Monday nights. The Fourth of July falls on a Monday this year and it’s anticipated that travelers coming to the city would take advantage of that day being a full day off work.

The LVCVA reported the average daily room rate for the month of July 2021 was $127.90 a night. That month started what was to become a steady increase in hotel room rates that has continued through April. Rates in April, $177.12 a night, were the highest on record for Southern Nevada. The LVCVA recap of May rates is expected to be released Thursday.

Individual properties monitor supply and demand regularly, so rates for the Fourth of July potentially climb or fall, depending on the visitation outlook.

Among the 89 properties surveyed Tuesday, seven had rates below $100 a night, two fewer than among those surveyed June 7, with the lowest at Hotel Galaxy on Dean Martin Drive, offered for $72 a night.

Among those under $100 a night were the Longhorn, Silver Sevens, the Gold Coast and the two Arizona Charlie’s properties.

Circus Circus, the Rio and El Cortez, all previously under $100 a night on June 7, are above $100 now.

Some high-end luxury resorts were offering rates of more than $400 a night. The highest listed: the Palazzo Prestige suites, going for $525 a night.

Other high-end rooms selling at more than $400 a night included The Venetian and Palazzo, and NoMad at Park MGM. Rooms at other high-end properties could be purchased for just under $400 at Bellagio, Wynn and Encore Las Vegas, and The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.

Josh Swissman, founding partner of the Las Vegas-based Strategy Organization, said he expects travelers will manage their budgets differently with higher gasoline prices and hotel room rates in play.

“It’s especially true with the Fourth falling the way it does on the calendar this year, turning it into a really nice three-day weekend for people, right in the middle of the summer when they want to get out and get traveling,” Swissman said earlier this month.

The American Hotel &Lodging Association indicated earlier this year that the Fourth of July is the summer holiday when most people are expected to travel, with 32 percent, compared with 25 percent for Memorial Day and 27 percent for Labor Day.

Advice for departures

AAA and Jones offered advice for people going out of town for the holiday.

According to AAA booking data, the busiest day for air travel during the holiday period is Friday, with Monday being the lightest. The Thursday and Friday before the holiday are expected to be peak traffic days for those driving.

Jones said long-term parking at Terminal 1 will likely fill this weekend, but other options will be available elsewhere for locals, including the Terminal 3 garage and the economy lot.

Travelers should allow extra time before flights if parking since it’s possible someone might need to divert to an Economy Lot and take a shuttle bus, he said. Bus schedules are not back to prepandemic levels, so those rides may take longer than people remember, because of an ongoing national bus driver shortage.

“Typically, we advise coming to the airport two hours ahead of a scheduled flight, but if people plan to park or are leaving during a morning peak, they should consider coming a bit earlier,” Jones said. “Monday looks to be the busiest day this weekend based on TSA’s look-aheads. The checkpoints will be fully staffed, but we’ll ask people to be understanding as lines will occur during the busier times given the high volumes we should experience.”

Flight delays and cancellations also have occurred in recent weeks as a result of pilot and flight crew shortages and bad weather, which are much harder to predict. Jones suggests passengers keep in contact with their respective air carriers.

“I can’t speak to what may happen with delays or cancellations, but people should be aware of weather and check their flight’s status before they come to the airport,” he said. “If something goes awry, the airlines must scramble to reposition people and planes and it’s often difficult to do that when the air travel system is so close to capacity with high demand. Thankfully these days most people are made aware of a delay or cancellation via alerts on their phones, and they can usually make adjustments to their itineraries without having to stand in line and speak to an agent at the airport.”

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

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