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Chris Jones

Tourist Group's Budget Getting a Bit Roomier

10 April 2006

An accountant's ledger isn't the most obvious indicator of the big things expected for Southern Nevada's travel industry.

But early next week, such numbers will paint another promising picture of the economic growth and vitality expected here in the next several months.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority board will on Tuesday consider a projected budget for the fiscal 2006-07 period beginning July 1.

A final budget won't be approved until May 18, but the pending sneak peek suggests leaders believe local hotels, casinos and trade show halls will continue to thrive.

A projected 6 percent gain in room taxes and 18 percent surge in convention center business should contribute to record-high revenue of $266.4 million for the organization, which is funded by room taxes.

Expenditures will also be larger than ever at a projected $207.7 million.

Brenda Siddall, the authority's senior finance director, said Friday that the rising figures reflect several changes in the travel industry.

Approximately 4,700 more rooms are scheduled to open citywide in the first half of 2007, while occupancy rates are projected to rise by 0.4 percent.

"The big jump is in (average daily rates)," Siddall said.

In fiscal 2006, the authority's budget was based on room rates rising by 3.5 percent.

They instead grew by 12 percent year-to-date.

Next year's budget calls for a 4.8 percent increase, a plan Siddall termed conservative.

The authority collects a 9 percent room tax from most guest rooms leased in Clark County. Portions of that tax are used to fund its efforts to promote the city's convention and leisure travel industries. The authority's marketing budget will jump by 6 percent to $34.6 million, while advertising expenditures will climb 1 percent to $84.7 million.

Special-event-related expenditures will rise by 46 percent to $15.3 million, a jump caused by the authority's $4.5 million commitment to host the National Basketball Association's All-Star events in February.

The authority budgeted $83.8 million this year toward the planned $737 million renovation of its Las Vegas Convention Center. Next year's budget will add $18.5 million toward that bill.

Last May, the board approved a budget calling for expenditures of $187.9 million in fiscal 2005-06, the largest projected outlay in the organization's 50-year history.

This month's agenda showed a revised '06 budget with projected expenditures of more than $198.8 million. Such midyear spending increases have become common in recent years thanks to rising room tax revenues fueled by escalating room rates at area hotels.

The current year's revenue was projected at $227 million; revised counts show it closer to $244.3 million.

True to pattern, annual gaming and room tax collections are on pace to finish $17 million more than were expected when the budget was approved.