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Chris Jones

Rain Dampens Vegas Tourism Numbers

16 March 2005

LAS VEGAS -- With wet winter weather dampening many would-be visitors' willingness to travel the highways to and from Southern California, Las Vegas' tourism industry in January suffered just its second monthly decrease in visitor volume since mid-2003.

More than 3 million visitors still came here during the first month of this year, though that was 6,352 people -- or 0.2 percent -- below the same month's total in 2004, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority said Monday.

"The feedback we're getting is that the (downturn) was the result of the rain and mudslides in California," John Piet, a senior research analyst for the authority, said in explaining the first dip in local visitor traffic since August 2004. Before that, local visitor volume had increased each month since July 2003.

Average daily highway traffic measured at the California-Nevada border along Interstate 15 dipped by 6.5 percent during the month, the authority reported.

Overall, highway traffic to and from the city fell by 1.6 percent for the month.

Las Vegas may also have suffered from this year's National Football League schedule. The sport's annual championship game, the Super Bowl, routinely draws bettors from around the world to local sports books.

In 2004, the game was played in Houston on Feb. 1, and Piet said that date's proximity to January likely divided the effect of visiting football fans over both months.

This year, however, those visiting for the Super Bowl will count entirely on February's tally because the game was played Feb. 6. The 2005 calendar also included four Fridays in January, down from five in 2004.

The calendar wasn't entirely unfavorable, however. This January, the local convention industry benefited from the return of the World of Concrete trade show, a 70,000-plus-attendee event that rotated back to Southern Nevada following a 2004 appearance in Orlando, Fla.

The Shooting Hunting Outdoor Trade Show also shifted to January from its February dates, transferring about 40,000 visitors to this year's first month.

Coupled with a nearly 13,000 attendance jump at this year's International Consumer Electronics Show, Las Vegas hosted nearly 932,000 conventioneers this January, up 13 percent from 2004.

Average daily room rates increased by 8.3 percent to $106.15, though citywide occupancy levels dipped by 1 percentage point to 83.2 percent.

However, Las Vegas had more than 1,300 additional rooms to fill this January than were available a year earlier.

Laughlin suffered a 6 percent decrease in its January visitor volume, which dipped to 327,271 from 348,217 the prior year.

The news was better from Mesquite, which reported a 1.1 percent gain with 137,108 January visitors.

Average daily room rates in those areas increased by 2.7 percent and 5.8 percent, respectively.