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Why Las Vegas visitation went down in October

Updated December 1, 2023 - 7:27 pm

A record number of passengers passed through Harry Reid International Airport in October, room rates were at historic high levels and, after just 10 months, there already have been more convention attendees to the city than last year.

So why was Las Vegas visitation down 0.2 percent for the month of October from last year?

The reason is simple: October 2023 had one fewer weekend day than in 2022. If the calendar had one additional weekend date, an increase would have been recorded.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority on Thursday reported that 3.6 million visitors were in Southern Nevada for the month, boosting the 10-month total for 2023 to 34.1 million visitors for the year, a 5.8 percent increase over last year.

Kevin Bagger, vice president of the LVCVA Research Center, said numerous sports and entertainment events attracted thousands of visitors during the month.

“Demand for sports, entertainment and conventions combined to lift room rates to record levels in October as the destination hosted more than 3.6 million visitors,” Bagger said. “Complementing the signature shows and residencies of the destination were other headliner acts, including Pink, the ‘When We Were Young’ music festival and Ed Sheeran, along with the fall NASCAR race and two NFL Raiders home games.”

One residency that wasn’t on the calendar last year was U2’s appearance at the new Sphere venue, which brought more than 17,000 people in 12 times in October.

Bagger said convention attendance for the month was up 2 percent year over year, supported by various returning and rotating trade shows as well as a TwitchCon gamers event with 30,000 attendees that was held in Las Vegas for the first time.

Bagger also explained record numbers at Reid International don’t necessarily translate to higher visitation.

“Air passenger tallies, as always, include a mix of residents and connecting passengers that can affect their trends,” he explained. “And while it is difficult to quantify, the mix of air and auto visitors can vary from one month to the next. As a reminder, our visitation estimates are based on a model driven by occupancy at the hotels, the purest visitor-driven metric we have. We do not base visitor estimates on air or auto data because of the murky mix of non-visitors (resident, connecting or pass-through, and/or commercial traffic) that is within their reporting.”

Convention visitation has hit 5.2 million people for the first 10 months of 2023, already greater than 2022’s total of 5 million. Depending on convention attendance in November and December — normally weak show months — the city could challenge the all-time record of 6.6 million conventioneers in 2019.

While overall occupancy rates were exactly the same year over year at 87.7 percent in October, weekend occupancy climbed 0.2 percentage points to 94.2 percent and midweek was up 0.3 points to 85.4 percent. Those numbers were affected by a 0.9 percent increase in capacity, to 152,289 hotel rooms. That capacity will rise even higher in December when Fontainebleau and Durango open their doors.

The big year-over-year change came in the average daily room rate, which shot up 11.1 percent to $233.32 a night, a record. That rate is expected to be even higher next month when room rates will include those posted during the Formula One Las Vegas Grand Prix.

For October, Strip room rates averaged $251.42, an 11.4 percent increase over last year, while downtown Las Vegas rates averaged $126.78, up 7.9 percent from a year ago.

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

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