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Chris Jones

World Travelers, Open Wallets

7 November 2005

Visitors' spending on Las Vegas goods and services, such as those sold at the Desert Passage mall at the Aladdin, above, rose by more than 5 percent between 2002 and 2003, a study released this week shows.

Thanks to visits from free-spending Frenchmen, high-rolling Hawaiians and others from parts between, traveler expenditures in Nevada grew by more than 5 percent from 2002 to 2003.

Despite that surge, Nevada still couldn't overtake the homes of Mickey Mouse and Broadway -- as well as two more highly populated states -- on an annual list of the country's top destinations for traveler spending. Advertisement

Two years ago, foreign and domestic guests spent approximately $21.34 billion here, ranking sixth among the 50 states and District of Columbia, said a study released this week by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Travel Industry Association of America, a Washington-based trade group.

California topped the list with a runaway $71.6 billion, followed by Florida's $56.3 billion.

New York and Texas ranked a distant third and fourth with $35.4 billion and $34.6 billion, respectively, while Illinois -- whose largest city, Chicago, is a major business capital, tourist attraction and convention hub -- rounded out the top five at $23 billion.

Nevada also ranked sixth in 2002, when visitors spent a reported $20.2 billion on goods and services here. That year, it trailed fifth-ranked Illinois by $1.92 billion vs. just $1.62 billion in 2003, the study said.

Comparable national data from 2004 is unavailable.

Traveler spending was also broken into foreign and domestic categories. Though the states outranking it varied from list to list, Nevada stayed in sixth place on each with $19.32 billion in reported domestic spending plus $2.02 billion from foreigners in 2003.

U.S. travelers spent the most money in California, whose $61 billion total topped runner-up Florida's $43 billion. But foreigners preferred Florida ($13.4 billion) over California ($10.5 billion) -- as well as New York ($7.7 billion) and Hawaii ($5.4 billion), the survey said.

Closer to home, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority regularly conducts its own surveys of local visitors to determine current spending trends. Its model, which varies from that used by the Travel Industry Association, showed visitors spent an estimated $32.8 billion in Las Vegas alone in 2003, including gaming revenue.

Last year, that count increased to $33.7 billion, senior research analyst John Piet said Thursday.

"Their model and our model (are) different," Piet said. "Theirs is useful when comparing Nevada to other states in a consistent manner, but ours is more sensitive to the local market both on the leisure and business travel side."