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Chris Jones

Song Stays the Same for Tourism in Las Vegas

30 May 2005

The term "broken record" has become, well, a broken record when used to describe recent milestones in local tourism.

Last year's 12-month Las Vegas visitor count of nearly 37. 4 million? A record.

And 2004's passenger activity at McCarran International Airport? Also a record at nearly 41.5 million.

That skipping sound you now hear means Memorial Day is on its way, and with it should come -- you guessed it -- a projected record-breaking number of holiday weekend visitors.

Approximately 290,000 visitors are expected to crowd the city's hotels and motels each day this weekend, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority said Thursday.

That projects to citywide occupancy of 95.2 percent, with visitors expected to spend $181 million on nongaming goods and services before returning home next week.

"That would be the busiest Memorial Day on record, assuming we meet the forecast," said John Piet, senior research analyst for the convention authority.

Last year, Memorial Day drew a daily average of 281,000 visitors who left behind an estimated $168.8 million.

Citywide occupancy rates were slightly higher a year ago at 95.9 percent, though that reduced average is misleading given that the Las Vegas Valley now has nearly 4,200 more guest rooms than a year ago.

Visitors are also expected to spend more money here this year, Piet said. Surveys by the convention authority indicate travelers will drop an average of $665 per person, per trip on items such as hotel rooms, food, shopping and entertainment. That's up from $634 a year ago, he said.

Piet said Memorial Day is typically one of the busiest three-day weekends for Las Vegas, though last year it ranked just 30th in weekend occupancy.

Las Vegas' recent popularity is not expected to wane once this weekend is complete.

The Travel Industry Association of America, a Washington-based trade group, said the Silver State trailed only Florida and California in its annual survey of the nation's most-popular summer travel destinations.

Approximately 15 percent of those polled by the association cited Nevada as a place they'd like to visit this summer, beating out other popular travel destinations such as New York (14 percent) and Hawaii (13 percent).

Thirty-four percent tabbed Florida as their top summer getaway, followed by California's 22 percent score.

Suzanne Cook, the association's senior vice president of research, said Americans will take 328 million leisure person-trips during June, July and August, up 2.3 percent from last year.

Cook defines a person-trip as one individual traveling 50 or more miles, one-way, from home.

That increase is projected despite survey results that show 34 percent of Americans believe their travel-related costs will be greater than a year ago.