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Las Vegas visitor volume up for the third straight month

Las Vegas visitor volume was up almost 3 percent in November, the third straight monthly increase.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority said Tuesday that 2.9 million visitors came to Las Vegas during the month, compared with 2.8 million a year ago. For the first 11 months of the year, visitor volume is at 33.5 million, down 3.4 percent from a year ago.

“We’re cautiously optimistic that we’re seeing some stabilization, but it’s too early to tell if we’ve turned the corner,” said Kris Tibbs, research manager for the convention authority. “We want to see a couple more months of positive numbers.”

A year ago, at the height of the economic crisis, November visitor totals were off almost 10 percent.

In November, Las Vegas operated almost 142,000 hotel rooms, 3 percent more than a year ago. Occupancy was of 1.2 percent while room rates were down almost 15 percent. For the year, room occupancy is at 79 percent, down 6.6 percent from a year ago, while rooms rates are down 23.1 percent.

Wells Fargo Securities gaming analyst Dennis Farrell Jr., said reduced airline capacity may hinder visitation. US Airways is cutting the number of flights the airline operates in and out of McCarran International Airport by almost half next month.

“These capacity cuts could remove up to 4,000 seats per day, which will likely raise airfares for patrons travelling to Las Vegas, as well as weigh on visitation counts,” Farrell told investors.

Convention attendance continued to slump in November, a decline of 13 percent. For the year, convention attendance is down almost 25 percent. However, the number of conventions held in Las Vegas during November were up almost 4 percent from the prior year.

“There were several smaller shows but the attendance numbers were par for the course,” Tibbs said.

Farrell said recent comments by the large Strip casino operators indicate that convention business will improve in the second half of this year and into 2011.

“Despite the positive results (in November), our thesis remains unchanged,” Farrell said. “We believe Las Vegas Strip operators will continue to face a challenging environment.”

One gaming analyst, however, believes MGM Mirage has turned the corner.

In a report to investors upgrading his view on the Strip casino giant, MGM Mirage, Goldman Sachs gaming analyst Steven Kent said the trends in Las Vegas have gotten “less bad.”

MGM Mirage has a strong upside to earnings, he said, because of the opening of the $8.5 billion CityCenter in December, which gave MGM Mirage 10 Strip resorts.

“Over the next several quarters we expect to see stabilization in Las Vegas trends and the start of a rebound as convention attendance increases and leisure travelers start to pay up for rooms,” Kent said.
 

 

Contact reporter Howard Stutz at hstutz@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3871.

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