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Chris Jones

Las Vegas Turns Up Heat on Tourism in July

13 September 2005

Las Vegas' travel industry sizzled through the midsummer heat thanks to an unusually robust rush of incoming conventioneers.

Nearly 3.4 million visitors came here in July, up 5.7 percent from the same month a year ago and the busiest July in local history, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority said Monday.

Year-to-date, the city's nearly 22.7 million count was approximately 3.1 percent better than last year's seven-month pace.

Las Vegas closed 2004 with nearly 37.4 million visitors, a 12-month record that will likely be eclipsed this year.

The month's calendar offered several special events including a July 2 Las Vegas centennial concert featuring the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and an anticipated July 16 middleweight boxing championship at MGM Grand.

But it was convention traffic that powered the July surge.

Thanks in large part to the July 25-29 first-phase debut of the $2 billion World Market Center furniture mart in downtown Las Vegas, local convention attendance grew nearly 37 percent during the month.

Conventioneers' nongaming spending jumped by nearly 41 percent to $433.6 million in July, while average daily room rates climbed by 19.3 percent to $94.76.

Gerry Sawyer, World Market Center's chief operating officer, said Monday's report validates his group's long-standing claims that a furniture market would greatly benefit local travel.

"We've added one more reason why America, and a lot of foreign guests, should come to Las Vegas," said Sawyer, whose event drew an estimated 62,000 attendees.

That total did not include conventioneers in town for other nonaffiliated furniture events held here that week, when many others cashed in on buyers and exhibitors lured to town by World Market Center, said John Piet, the authority's senior research analyst.

Whether they were squeezed out by visiting furniture buyers or chose to spend the summer in a cooler locale, leisure visitors purchased 17,542 fewer room nights this year vs. July 2004. But their reduced presence was more than offset by conventioneers, who bought nearly 216,600 more room nights than a year ago.

Citywide occupancy rates through July stood at 90.7 percent, up 1.3 percent despite the presence of nearly 3,700 more guest rooms than were available a year ago.

Mesquite's travel industry seemed to drown in the nearby Virgin River in July. The roadside resort's 124,833 monthly visitors represented a 14.5 percent drop from the same month a year ago. Year-to-date, its 982,259 tally was off nearly 5 percent from a year ago.

Piet said Monday afternoon he'd placed a call to Mesquite travel leaders seeking an explanation for the month's big downturn, though he had not received any answers.

The news was slightly better from Laughlin. Its 353,200 July visitor count was off just 1.9 percent compared with July 2004. Through the first seven months of this year, Laughlin's 2.4 million visitor count showed a 3.4 percent drop, convention authority data show.