Editorial: Tourism by the numbers

The average Las Vegas tourist spent more money on a variety of activities last year than in 2014 – but a lower percentage of visitors actually hit the tables or slots.

That’s among the many findings in the 2015 visitor profile survey released this week by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. The authority collected information from 3,600 tourists at various local properties throughout 2015, when a record 42.3 million people came to town.

The survey provides an interesting snapshot of visitor trends that can foreshadow future impacts on the local economy.

For the most part, the findings reflect a healthy industry that has bounced back nicely from the economic downturn. Spending in a whole host of categories – transportation, lodging, food and drink, sightseeing, entertainment and gambling – was higher in 2015 than the previous year. Only shopping expenditures dropped, off 18 percent from 2014.

But while the survey found that tourists are budgeting more to gamble on their excursions to Southern Nevada, fewer of them are partaking in games of chance. Seventy-three percent of visitors said they gambled on their trip – a number that’s been relatively constant over the past four years, but is down from 77 percent in 2011.

Perhaps all the new slot technology designed to attract millennials to the gaming areas has yet to have the desired effect. While the Las Vegas experience has evolved over the years to include much more than just cards, dice or slots, the industry would surely like to lure as many visitors as possible to the tables.

Other findings of note:

— About 16 percent of those questioned were first-time visitors, down slightly from 19 percent in 2014.

— The Fremont Street Experience attracted 32 percent of vacationers, down from 36 percent the year before.

— A majority of Las Vegas tourists — 57 percent — arrived by vehicle, most came from the western United States (53 percent) and 65 percent were age 45 or older, up from 57 percent in 2014, but down from 70 percent in 2011.

Meanwhile, just 10 percent of visitors said their primary purpose for coming to Las Vegas was to gamble, but 12 percent reported gambling seven or more hours while they were here. Make of that what you will.

Overall, despite complaints about encroaching corporatism and rising prices, Las Vegas continues to deliver. Virtually every visitor said they were “very satisfied” (89 percent) or “somewhat satisfied” (11 percent) with the experience.

Officials in Southern Nevada and the rest of the state continue the push for economic diversification — and rightly so. But the convention authority survey provides an annual reminder that the state’s dominant industry remains the lifeblood of the local economy.

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