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Chris Jones

Las Vegas Visitor Count Up

13 April 2006

LAS VEGAS -- Las Vegas narrowly missed the 3 million visitor mark in February, the first time in a year the local travel industry fell short of that threshold.

Regardless, the month's nearly 2.98 million visitors were enough to make this the busiest February on record, up 0.9 percent from a year ago.

In the first two months of the year, more than 6.15 million guests were in town, data released Wednesday by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority show.

That's a 2.6 percent jump from last year, which ended with a record annual total of nearly 38.6 million visitors.

From Chinese New Year and an international furniture show to Super Bowl parties, Valentine's Day weddings and another visit from the year's largest semiannual apparel event, travelers had plenty of reasons to come here during the year's shortest month.

They also paid plenty for the privilege.

Average daily rates for the city's 131,617 guest rooms were more than $120, up 18 percent from a year ago.

Despite higher prices and a slight increase in available rooms, citywide occupancy climbed to better than 90 percent.

February's conventions enjoyed 53.3 percent better attendance than a year ago.

World Market Center, a downtown Las Vegas furniture showcase that drew an estimated 62,000 attendees from Jan. 30 through Feb. 3, did not take place in winter 2005.

The Men's Apparel Guild in California apparel trade show drew an estimated 115,000 visitors, well above 2005's reported 90,000.

In addition, the 39,000-attendee SHOT Show and 41,000-attendee Surfaces floor coverings event moved to February following January dates in 2005.

As a result of those changes, convention-related spending topped $1 billion, up 65 percent from February 2005's $646.8 million.

Numbers from Laughlin and Mesquite continued to slide, though one expert said the falloff was a bit misleading. The Southern Nevada getaways saw monthly decreases of 12 percent and 2.8 percent respectively. Likewise, their year-to-date tallies were down 11.4 percent and 8.7 percent.

Laughlin last enjoyed a monthly increase in April 2004; Mesquite's most-recent positive month was January 2005.

"There's been a decline in day-trippers to Laughlin, but the type of visitor they're getting is spending more on gaming," Kevin Bagger, the authority's research director, said Wednesday. "Mesquite continues to see good gains in gaming numbers and (average daily rate) levels. That shows they're getting visitors with a strong spending propensity."