Las Vegas tourism sizzles in February; visitor count surges 6.4 percent

February was a hot month for Las Vegas tourism.

Total visitor volume was up 6.4 percent from the same month in 2011, a jump assisted by a slew of conventions that occurred in other months last year or that returned after a hiatus from Vegas.

In all, 3.07 million tourists came to the destination in February, up from February 2011’s 2.88 million total. Year to date, 6.22 million people have visited the city, up 3.6 percent from 2011’s 6.01 million year-to-date total.

"It’s more than just the conventions, it’s a continuation of the growth we’ve seen the past two years," said Scott Russell, senior manager of research for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. "The extra day played a factor too."

The increase in the monthly Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority visitor count marks the 24th consecutive gain in prior-year comparisons.

Russell said the strong visitor numbers weren’t a surprise.

"We’re continuing to grow on months that were growth months last year," he explained.

ON PACE FOR GOOD YEAR

After seeing February’s visitor counts, analysts from Union Gaming Research reaffirmed their stance in January when they said 2011’s strength in total visitation and air traffic — year-end, both were up 4.3 percent — support the concept that the Strip is on pace for strong occupancy and higher room rates in 2012 and beyond. In fact, for the full year of 2012, the firm is predicting an occupancy of 88.1 percent and an average daily room rate of $114.

Like total visitation, February’s citywide occupancy rose 1.1 percent, with hotel occupancy, specifically, rising by 2.4 percent. Year-to-date, citywide occupancy increased only 0.2 percent and hotel occupancy by 1.4 percent. Weekend stays in February rose by 1.3 percent from 2011’s numbers, and midweek occupancy rose 1.2 percent.

The average daily room rate continues its path upward, up 10.5 percent from 2011’s $98.49 to $108.80. Las Vegas had 3.57 million occupied hotel-room nights in February, 6.3 percent more than a year ago.

SHOWS ADDED, MOVED

Because of the added trade shows to February’s calendar, the month was huge for the number of conventions and meetings held — 1,983 — and convention attendance, which totaled 564,923. Both were up staggering percentages of 23.2 percent and 51.1 percent, respectively.

The travel board notes that the World Market Center’s winter show, with an estimated attendance of 50,000, moved to February from January this year. Likewise, the International Wireless Communications Expo, with 10,700 attendees, shifted to February from March. Both the National Auto Dealers Association, with 22,900 attendees, and the Safari Club, with 20,000 attendees, returned to the destination after a five- and 10-year hiatus, respectively. February also drew the MAGIC Marketplace with an estimated attendance of 75,000.

The average daily number of vehicles coming into Las Vegas showed a 0.7 percent increase in February, from 93,333 a year ago to 93,969 in 2012. The number coming from Southern California on Interstate 15 also was up 6.1 percent.

Elsewhere in Clark County, the number of Laughlin visitors fell 11.8 percent, while Mesquite visitation was up 3.3 percent.

Russell said visitation is declining in Laughlin because the destination is competing with other, similar travel options in and around the area. As a result, the travel authority is working with the city to help attract tourists through special events and concerts.

Contact reporter Laura Carroll at lcarroll@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4588.

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