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Chris Jones

Visitor Count Up in Las Vegas Despite Loss of Convention

13 January 2005

LAS VEGAS -- When word arrived last summer that Las Vegas would not host an autumn Comdex trade show for the first time since Jimmy Carter called the While House home, local tourism leaders responded with a collective, "So what?"

After November's official visitor tally was released Wednesday, those same leaders could have just as easily have said, "See. We told you so."

Despite cancellation of the once-giant technology trade show that brought more than 200,000 visitors to town as recently as November 2000, this city's leisure and convention travel industries hardly missed a beat in the 11th month of 2004.

Local visitor volume was nearly 2.93 million in November, up 2.7 percent from the same month of 2003, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority said Wednesday. Through 2004's first 11 months, citywide visitor volume was 34.5 million, an increase of 5.4 percent from the prior year.

Last year's official 12-month visitor total won't be released until mid-February, but convention authority President and Chief Executive Officer Rossi Ralenkotter said Tuesday Las Vegas saw a record 37-plus million visitors in 2004.

San Francisco-based MediaLive International's June decision to pull the plug on Comdex, a local staple since 1979, freed rooms for other convention and leisure travelers during a period that in the past was known for sold-out hotels with jacked-up room rates.

While November's convention attendance was still down from 2003, the convention authority's John Piet said things could have been much worse.

"A 3.7 percent decrease, considering Comdex wasn't here, was not a bad month," said Piet, a senior research analyst.

Overall, Las Vegas hosted 488,755 conventioneers in November versus 507,358 in November 2003. Comdex drew about 51,000 visitors in 2003.

While the city failed to draw 3 million monthly visitors for the first time since February, the citywide room occupancy level was 84.7 percent for the month, up 2.6 percentage points. The average daily room rate was $90.20, up 5.7 percent, and total room nights occupied topped 3.27 million, up 3.1 percent.

Returns were mixed in two outlying Southern Nevada tourist destinations.

Mesquite's November total was 122,880, just 237 visitors more than the previous year. Through November, its count of 1.6 million was up 1.8 percent from 2003.

Laughlin's monthly total was 285,002, down 7.3 percent, while its 11-month count of 3.76 million was a 3.4 percent decrease from the prior year.