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Liz Benston

Visitor numbers see largest fall since 2003

11 September 2008

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Las Vegas in July experienced its largest monthly decline in visitor traffic since the start of the Iraq war in March 2003, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority reported today.

Visitor traffic fell 5 percent versus the same month a year ago -- the latest indication of a deepening economic downturn that has yet to hit bottom.

Average room rates, which were down 10 percent across Las Vegas in July, a time when room rates are typically low, also have lowered over time.

Weekend and midweek occupancy rates, 91 percent and 86 percent, respectively, were each down 5 percentage points in July. Passenger traffic through McCarran International Airport was down 9 percent and average daily auto traffic on Interstate 15 at the California border fell 7 percent.

Conventions, which bolster business midweek, have been hit along with tourism business. The number of conventions held in July rose 9 percent from a year ago and attendance was up 1 percent but total room nights occupied by convention-goers, a sign travelers are cutting stays short, fell 9 percent, the visitors authority said.

Like the dismal gaming revenue figures released by the Gaming Control Board today, the tourism figures, to some extent, reflect a time when many Americans were paying more than $4 per gallon for gasoline. It's unclear whether visitation numbers are going up again now that gas is cheaper.