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Chris Jones

Las Vegas Tourism Grows

15 January 2004

LAS VEGAS -- The local tourism industry grew by 1.3 percent in November despite pre-holiday travel doldrums and a weaker Comdex trade show.

Tourist traffic typically falls off as Thanksgiving approaches and Americans begin to focus their time and income on the upcoming holiday season. But because of strong events such as the annual Specialty Equipment Market Association automotive aftermarket show and Las Vegas Comic-Con, a comic book convention, the total November visitor count recorded 2.85 million people. The percentage increase compares November with the same month in the previous year.

"Comdex was down, but those two shows and the leisure market helped us to achieve growth in November," Kevin Bagger, research director for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, said Wednesday.

Overall, the convention industry was the month's lone negative. A total of 507,358 conventioneers were reported in November, down 8 percent. Much of that could be traced to the smaller scale of the annual Comdex trade show, which attracted an estimated 125,000 visitors in 2002 but only 50,000 last year.

Greg Kerwin, vice president of marketing for Comdex producer MediaLive International, said Wednesday his organization last year screened prospective attendees in an effort to weed out nonbusiness technology users. Those efforts, as well as the post-dot-com era challenges facing the technology industry, likely helped reduce the size of Comdex's 2003 event in Las Vegas.

In contrast, the annual SEMA show lured an estimated 105,000 visitors to the Las Vegas Convention Center, Bagger said, well above its 2002 total of about 87,000 attendees. Comic-Con, which made its Las Vegas debut last year, brought another 12,500 people to Mandalay Bay.

Year-to-date, the nation's top convention market continued its improvement with more than 5.52 million convention visitors, up 10.6 percent compared with the same period in 2002.

The average daily room rate improved by 4 percent to $85.47 in November. Year-to-date, hotel and motel patrons have paid an average rate of $83.16, up 7.8 percent compared with the first 11 months of 2002.

Occupancy levels reached 82.1 percent in November, up slightly (1.3 percent) from a year ago. On the year, overall occupancy rates hovered around 85 percent, a figure that's comparable to 2002 levels.

Visitors occupied nearly 3.2 million hotel nights in November, up 3.2 percent from the same month a year ago. Aided by a 2,100-room change in available inventory, the year-to-date room night total jumped by 2 percent through November to more than 36.65 million.

In surrounding areas, Laughlin reported 307,507 November visitors, down 3.5 percent from a year ago. Year-to-date, the Colorado River resort has welcomed nearly 3.9 million visitors, down 1.7 percent compared with the first 11 months of 2002.

Business also slipped in Mesquite, whose 122,643 monthly visitors marked a 4.4 percent dip compared with November 2002. Through November, Mesquite's annual total approached 1.58 million, up 8.9 percent.