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Howard Stutz

Vegas visitation reaches all-time August high

13 October 2006

LAS VEGAS -- The Las Vegas tourism industry roared to life after a three-month slide in visitor numbers with the area's strongest August on record.

More than 3.3 million visitors came to the valley during the month, a 2.7 percent increase compared with 3.2 million visitors in August 2005, according to statistics released Thursday by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

The number of visitors fell 0.9 percent in May, 2 percent in June and 0.5 percent in July. August recorded the biggest jump this year since a 2.6 percent increase was reported in February.

Analysts for the convention and visitors authority said attendance at trade shows and meetings helped fuel the increase. Some 606,595 convention delegates arrived during the month, a 53.3 percent increase compared with 395,747 a year ago.

John Piet, the convention authority's senior research analyst, said a move by the Men's Apparel Guild in California trade show from September brought 105,000 attendees.

"It's always difficult to look at convention attendance month to month because of the cyclical nature of the industry," Piet said. "We had a few new shows come into the destination (during the month)."

Through August, Las Vegas has played host to more than 26 million visitors, 0.6 percent more than the 25.9 million that came to the city through August 2005. Last year was the busiest year in local history with nearly 38.6 million annual visitors.

Most visitor volume indicators for August increased.

Hotel and motel occupancy was up 2 percent to 90.7 percent with the average daily room rate climbing to $116.57, a 25 percent increase from $93.22 a year ago. The figures were based on a room inventory of 133,347.

Airline travel in August grew 4.1 percent with more than 4 million passengers coming through McCarran International Airport during the month.

Highway traffic also grew, with 95,503 vehicles reported on all major highways and 46,684 vehicles reported on Interstate 15 at the Nevada-California border, which was a 2 percent climb from a year ago.

The vehicle numbers were recorded despite attention paid to high gasoline prices, which AAA said averaged $3.03 a gallon in Nevada and $2.97 per gallon in Las Vegas.

"There was a lot of media attention paid to fuel cost and gasoline prices were still pretty high," Piet said. "The end of August, when the kids are back in school, we usually see leisure travel pick up on weekends for adults."

Visitor volume fell in Laughlin during August with 275,608 visitors coming to the Colorado River community, an 18.1 percent drop compared to 336,679 a year ago. In Mesquite, visitor volume climbed 15.8 percent with 139,347 visiting the town on the Nevada-Arizona border.