Las Vegas hosted record 42.9M visitors in 2016

For Southern Nevada, the tourists keep coming and the records keep falling.

The region hosted a record 42.9 million visitors in 2016, a 1.5 percent increase from the previous year, according to preliminary statistics released Tuesday by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. The authority forecasts a modest half-percent increase in 2017 to 43.2 million.

Kevin Bagger, the authority’s executive director of research, told the authority’s board of directors that convention attendance also was up 7.1 percent to 6.3 million for the year, barely topping a record that had stood since 2006.

All the significant statistical indicators eclipsed 2015’s numbers, with occupancy rates, average daily room rates and revenue per available room higher than in the previous year.

“Together with our resort partners, we look forward to aggressively marketing the destination around the world to continue attracting more visitors and break the record again this year,” said Rossi Ralenkotter, president and CEO of the authority.

In Tuesday’s meeting, Ralenkotter said tourism leaders would mine opportunities in attracting visitation from the emerging market of India. Attracting travelers from that country is a challenge because of the distance, but officials will look at the prospects of one-stop air service through Middle Eastern air carriers. Qatar Airways in November announced it is exploring nonstop flights from the Middle East to Las Vegas within the next two years, but it didn’t elaborate on routes or frequencies.

Southern Nevada has focused its attention on developing nonstop flights from China in recent years and was successful in getting its first nonstop route between Beijing and McCarran International Airport in December.

Bagger attributed the strength in the visitation numbers to the estimated $1.2 billion in private investment from the resort and tourism community last year.

He cited MGM Resorts International’s T-Mobile Arena ($375 million), the Lucky Dragon hotel-casino ($373 million), the Park Theater at Monte Carlo ($100 million), Caesars Palace’s Julius Tower ($75 million), TopGolf at MGM Grand ($50 million) and SpeedVegas ($30 million) as examples.

The preliminary 2016 tallies in other statistical categories left board members smiling.

The year’s 89.2 percent occupancy rate, up 1.4 percentage points from 2015, was well above the national average of around 65 percent.

The average daily room rate for the year was up 4.5 percent to $126, and revenue per available room, which blends the room rate with the occupancy rate, climbed to $112, up 6.2 percent from 2015.

All those gains came at a time when room inventory went up by just 0.2 percent, to 149,476.

In other business Tuesday, Clark County Commissioner Larry Brown rejoined the authority board of directors after serving between 2003 and 2008, replacing Commissioner Susan Brager. The board also re-elected Commissioner Lawrence Weekly chairman, Mandalay Bay President and COO Chuck Bowling vice chairman, Boyd Gaming senior vice president Bill Noonan secretary and Boulder City Mayor Pro Tem Cam Walker treasurer.

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

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