An estimated 330,000 travelers will invade Southern Nevada this week for the popular Independence Day holiday.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority said Monday that visitation will be higher this year than last, thanks to greater hotel capacity and a shift in the calendar that will lead some to enjoy a four-day weekend.
“Visitation tends to increase when the holiday falls on a Thursday, as many visitors extend their stay to a three-day weekend,” said Lori Nelson-Kraft, LVCVA senior vice president of communications and government affairs.
The LVCVA said 330,000 people are expected to visit Las Vegas, 0.9 percent more than on the Fourth of July in 2018. Since last year, the number of hotel rooms has increased 1.2 percent to 149,293, and tourism leaders expect citywide occupancy to go up 0.1 of a percentage point to 97.5 percent for the holiday.
As a result, direct spending by tourists is expected to expand by 1.2 percent to $238.4 million, resulting in an overall economic impact of $398.3 million for the holiday.
Higher hotel costs
Visitors will pay more for their Las Vegas hotel rooms, according to an analysis by San Francisco-based Hipmunk, a travel planning website.
Kelly Soderlund, of Hipmunk, said an analysis of non-Airbnb bookings with a check-in date of July 4-6 versus comparable dates in 2018 found that at $153 a night, the median booking price for a hotel was up 16 percent from last year’s median booking price of $132.
Soderlund said that when a holiday falls closer to a weekend, hotels expect higher demand for a longer duration and adjust their prices accordingly.
She also noted that Las Vegas is atop Hipmunk’s list of most desired Fourth of July destinations, topping New York, San Diego and New Orleans.
The increase in visitation also is expected to make for crowded highways and airports.
The Nevada Department of Transportation is predicting heavy traffic during the holiday, with at least 60 percent traveling by vehicle, based on historical LVCVA information. That means 200,000 additional motorists on local roads beyond the 104,000 vehicles operated by local residents daily on major highways.
“We anticipate heavy traffic along Interstate 15, U.S. Highway 95 and the resort corridor during the Independence Day holiday,” said NDOT spokesman Tony Illia. “Motorists should budget additional travel time and remain alert to impaired drivers.”
AAA Nevada surveyed local members and determined that 20 percent of Nevadans will travel during the Independence Day weekend, defined as Wednesday through Sunday. California will be the top destination, with 38 percent of those traveling visiting the Golden State.
Busiest summer holiday
“Fourth of July is typically the busiest summer travel holiday, and this year will be no exception for Nevadans and those traveling into Nevada to celebrate,” said Sergio Avila, a spokesman for AAA Nevada. “A strong economy has translated into more Americans hitting the roads.”
Avila said Las Vegas ranked fourth among U.S. destinations for Independence Day travel in AAA’s national surveys, just behind Orlando, Florida; Honolulu and Seattle but ahead of Anaheim, California; New York and Boston.
Airports also are expected to have their own traffic jams, but the chief of the Transportation Security Administration said travelers should see only a slight increase in checkpoint wait times over the holiday weekend despite the diversion of about 350 employees, including screeners, to the U.S.-Mexico border.
David Pekoske said Monday that the TSA can manage the loss of those screeners if it is only temporary. He said the border deployment has not had a measurable impact on airport wait times so far.
The TSA expects to screen about 12.1 million people between Wednesday and Sunday, which will be the busiest day.
When not to hit the road
AAA predicts the worst traffic across the country will be Wednesday, as commuters mix in with holiday travelers.
In major metropolitan areas, drivers could face delays as much as four times their normal commute. Nationwide, delays are expected to increase by approximately 9 percent.
The biggest jam in Southern Nevada is likely to occur on Interstate 15 into Southern California on Sunday.