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Best of Liz Benston

Gaming Guru

Liz Benston

Las Vegas Visitor Volume Rises

12 April 2005

The Super Bowl weekend and Chinese New Year festivities helped offset a decline in convention attendance in February, while room rates surged upward to meet demand, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority reported Monday.

Visitor volume in February rose 1.2 percent to 2.95 million people, or 35,748 more people than February 2004.

Scheduling differences were largely responsible for a 25 percent drop in convention attendance in February to 528,320 people, LVCVA Senior Research Analyst John Piet said.

Several conventions that were held in Las Vegas last year were held in other cities this year but will return as part of a regular rotation, Piet said. Other conventions that were held in February 2004 were scheduled for different months this year, he said.

Those conventions, which included Coldwell Banker, the International Apparel Show and the National Automobile Dealers Association, accounted for a loss of at least 90,000 people in February.

All told, the number of conventions dropped 17 percent to 2,162 in February.

The nongaming economic spending from those conventions fell 24 percent to $646.8 million.

Other indicators showed that Las Vegas tourism remains strong, Piet said.

Total occupancy across the Las Vegas valley rose 3 percentage points to 89.7 percent. Midweek occupancy rose 4 points to 86.4 percent and weekend occupancy rose 1 point to 96.7 percent.

Average room rates rose 11 percent to $101.96 -- the highest February on record. January's average room rate of $106.15 was the highest on record since the LVCVA began tracking such data in 2001.

"Even with room rates increasing the demand is still there. People are still coming," Piet said.

Room rate increases aren't surprising given that most of the city's new rooms have been built for luxury travelers, he said.

Higher gaming revenue and airport traffic contributed to the economy in February, while daily auto traffic into Las Vegas rose 4 percent on all major highways. Traffic from California on Interstate 15 rose 1 percent to 34,788 vehicles.

Visitor volume in Mesquite was down 8 percent to 130,342 and occupancy was up less than a point to 88.2 percent. In Laughlin, visitor volume was down 5 percent to 337,937 and occupancy was up less than a point to 86.7 percent.