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Chris Jones
 

Southern Nevada Tourism: Las Vegas Visitor Tally Flat for April

13 June 2006

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- The number of travelers who visited Las Vegas fell flat in April, the second consecutive month in which visitor volume increased by just 0.3 percent.

The city still welcomed more than 3.3 million out-of-town guests, and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority's research director said two straight months of so-so growth does not suggest that the local travel industry has hit a plateau.

"(Two months) is too short to be a trend," Kevin Bagger said Monday. "There will be stronger gains in certain months versus others due to increases in room counts.

"And with the nature of the convention cycle, there will be an ebb and flow with how visitation proceeds over the long haul."

An East Coast gaming analyst also said two months' data is not enough to be considered a trend.

But he cautioned that Las Vegas would have trouble matching its historic growth should the U.S. economy further weaken.

"There may be a growing concern that Vegas, and perhaps some other gaming markets, may have started to hit a wall from a growth perspective," said the analyst, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Due to high fuel costs and other household budgeting worries, shaky consumer confidence could limit leisure travel, he said.

That development would force gaming properties to rely on business travelers to shoulder an even larger load.

"Because you've set the threshold so high year after year after year, it becomes increasingly difficult to match prior-year levels," the analyst said.

"When you face higher interest rates and a real estate market that's just beginning to roll over ... you've got a much bigger problem for Vegas than (visitor numbers) only going up 0.3 percent year over year," he added.

For now, Bagger is unconcerned, saying the city is on pace to meet its long-term goal of attracting 43 million annual visitors by 2009.

Year-to-date, Las Vegas' nearly 12.9 million visitor count was up 1.4 percent from last year, when Las Vegas hosted nearly 38.6 million, a 12-month record.

April's performance suffered from a 1,659-room decrease caused by the recent closures of the Boardwalk and Lady Luck.

Despite fewer open beds, the number of guests in town went up, Bagger said.

Citywide occupancy was up 0.6 percent, though weekend stays slipped 0.7 percent, which suggests a slight dip in leisure travelers.

Despite that slippage, the city's 132,176 rooms were 93.9 percent full during the month.

April's average daily room rate surged by nearly 19 percent to $127.53, which reflects a strong convention industry and strong overall demand.

The presence of more luxury hotels, including Wynn Las Vegas and the Augustus tower at Caesars Palace, is also boosting local room prices.

Convention attendance was 545,856 in April, up 5.4 percent.

Conventioneer spending topped $704 million, up 9.1 percent.

CTIA, the Washington-based trade group formerly known as the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association, returned to the Las Vegas Convention Center for the first time since 2003.

That trade show brought an estimated 35,000 visitors to town April 5-7.

April's annual events included the 105,000-attendee National Association of Broadcasters gathering at the Las Vegas Convention Center and the International Security Conference, or ISC West, trade show held April 5-7 at the Sands Expo and Convention Center. It drew 22,000 approximately attendees.

The news was largely bad -- again -- from two smaller Southern Nevada resort communities.

Laughlin's 308,797 April visitor count was off 12.9 percent from 2005. Year-to-date, the Colorado River getaway's tally had slipped by 12.3 percent.

Mesquite reported 144,262 April visitors, down 3.7 percent. Through this year's first four months, its count was 6.3 percent less, though its average daily room rate of $55.39 was more than 26 percent higher than a year ago.