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Best of Benjamin Spillman

Gaming Guru

Benjamin Spillman
 

Tourism slump may be afoot

28 January 2008

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Friday's fire at the Monte Carlo resort may have exposed a developing slump in the Las Vegas tourism market.

The fire means the 3,000-room Monte Carlo is uninhabitable for now, but guests should have no trouble finding alternate lodging.

Judging by the number of hotels with available rooms and low prices, demand on the Strip is slow.

"There is just a lot of availability," said Michael Zaletel, operator of the hotel-booking site www.i4vegas.com. "I've never seen it like that."

Zaletel said his site had rooms at Sahara for $49 per night this weekend and at Harrah's for $88 nightly. The hotel Web site www.Vegas.com had rooms at the Luxor for $100 per night.

He said lower-than-normal occupancy in Las Vegas hotels could be a symptom of the broader economic slump that's prompted rising home foreclosures, stock market volatility and declining consumer confidence in recent months.

"All the economic factors are affecting all kinds of leisure travel," Zaletel said.

Hotel statistics for January aren't yet available.

In January 2007, occupancy was about 85 percent and the average daily room rate for Las Vegas was $134. In January 2006, the occupancy rate was 86 percent and the average rate was $120 per night. January occupancy was slightly lower than the annual occupancy rate in both 2006 and the first 11 month of 2007.

The latest gambling revenue figures available also suggest a slowdown may be imminent for Las Vegas.

In November, gambling revenue statewide was down 14 percent. On the Strip, the decline was even steeper at 19 percent. The November drop was the steepest in Nevada in five years.

Approximately 85,000 people were in Las Vegas this week for the World of Concrete show at the Las Vegas Convention Center. It was the biggest show of the week and ended Friday.

Next week a flooring and surface show is expected to attract about 40,000 people to the Sands Expo Center, a winter sports show for about 17,000 people is scheduled for Mandalay Bay, a photo marketing show is expected to attract 36,000 people and the winter market at World Market Center downtown could draw around 50,000 people.

Monte Carlo is listed among the host hotels for the World Market event, which takes place downtown and at the MGM Grand on the Strip.

"We just actually sent out an e-mail blast," World Market spokesman Andrew Maiden said early Friday afternoon.

Maiden said the e-mail was meant to notify World Market visitors, mostly professional furniture buyers and sellers, who planned to stay at Monte Carlo about the fire.

Zaletel said he hopes the Monte Carlo fire -- which was broadcast live on national television -- doesn't dissuade people from visiting Las Vegas.

"My hope is it doesn't hurt tourism at all," he said. "Las Vegas doesn't need that right now."