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Howard Stutz

Vegas visitor numbers jump 4.7 percent in July

13 September 2010

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Visitation into Las Vegas recorded its largest single-month percentage jump in almost five years during July, thanks in part to a boost in convention attendance and a record number of customers driving in from Southern California.

But beneath the raw numbers of more than 3.3 million visitors to Las Vegas in July was the hard reality that consumers are still hesitant to spend discretionary dollars like they have in the past.

"We're encouraged and happy to see the continued increases in visitation," said Kevin Bagger, senior director of marketing for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, which released its monthly report Friday. "But we still know that people are cautious in their spending habits."

Las Vegas attracted 3,330,658 visitors in July, an increase of 4.7 percent compared with 3,181,139 visitors in the same month a year ago. It was the 11th straight month that visitation was either flat or exceeded year-over-year figures.

July's number also marked Las Vegas' largest single monthly increase since December 2005.

For the first seven months of the year, Las Vegas has attracted more than 21.8 million visitors, an increase of 2.3 percent compared to a year ago.

July was helped by having one Saturday more than July 2009.

Convention attendance grew 28.4 percent to 320,724 delegates in July, which was helped by the new DeafNation show that attracted about 23,400 attendees. Also, several other shows took place in July, which added 7,300 attendees into the mix.

"It's not unusual to see an ebb and flow in terms of convention attendance," Bagger said.

One of the largest boosts came from visitors arriving by car.

Drive-in traffic from all major highways jumped 4.7 percent during July with an average of 47,886 vehicles a day arriving in Las Vegas from California along Interstate 15. The figure was the single-month record, according to convention authority officials.

While drive-in customers have increased, airline passenger counts remain down as flights in and out of McCarran International Airport have decreased.

Consumers, Bagger said, are driving to Las Vegas in order to save money.

"This is something that continues to stand out, month over month," he said.

During July, consumers found an average daily room rate of $90.38, up 4.8 percent. Also, there are some 7,000 more hotel rooms in Las Vegas than a year ago, yet, citywide occupancy was at 84 percent, roughly flat compared with July 2009.

Bagger said the visitation counts over the past 11 months were a positive sign, even though the comparison has been against some of the largest year-over-year declines ever recorded during the last half of 2008 and the first half of 2009.

Union Gaming Group principal Bill Lerner said figures such as improved visitation and a positive convention outlook point toward some recovery for the Strip.

He also believes the opening in December of the $3.9 billion Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, which will add 2,000 hotel rooms to the market, "will have a modest impact" on the hotel and gaming segments of the Strip.