Visitors spend less

Mar 24, 2010 11:59 PM

Last week, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) released the results of its annual 2009 Las Vegas Visitor Profile survey, which takes an in-depth look at the demographics and spending patterns of visitors to Las Vegas.

Among the "good news" statistics is that 94 percent of visitors said they were "very satisfied" with their trip to Las Vegas, up from 93 percent in 2008 and from an all-time low of 89 percent in 2007.

The "bad" news is visitors are spending less money here: their non-gambling travel and lodging expenditures were $619.50 last year, down from $751.97 in 2008; and the average visitor’s gambling budget was down to $481.57 compared to $531.98 in 2008 and from a high of $651.94 in 2006.

While there were no truly shocking "spikes" in the profile of a typical visitor, there were some other interesting trends that would likely pique the interest of casino operators.

For instance, a greater number of visitors came to Las Vegas for reasons other than vacation or pleasure: those who came to visit relatives or friends reached an all-time high of 15 percent, up from 11 percent in 2008, while those who came for vacation was 40 percent, nearly equal to 2008’s 39 percent, but far below the 61 percent in 2005.

Perhaps it’s the result of more people visiting friends and relatives, but the percentage of visitors who gambled in a casino dropped last year to 83 percent, down from 85 percent in 2008 and 87 percent in 2006.

Not only did the number of gamblers decrease, so did the amount they budgeted as noted above: last year, the average gambling budget was $481.57, down from the $531.98 budgeted in 2008 and $651.94 in 2006.

Oddly enough, despite fewer gamblers and smaller gambling bankrolls, the number of visitors who come primarily to gamble remains on the rise. Last year, 13 percent of visitors said their primary purpose in visiting Sin City was to gamble, equal to the 13 percent in 2008 and nearly triple the 4 percent of 2003.

Outside of the casino, visitors were not spending more on their non-gambling expenditures, such as shows, shopping, attractions and accommodations. In fact, every category reported less spending than the previous year. Those average expenditures included:

• Restaurants and dining, $250.32 (down from $273.39 in 2008)

• Shopping, $101.97 (down from $121.90 in 2008)

• Shows and entertainment, $39.87 (down from $51.64 in 2008)

As noted, the average cost of a hotel room was less last year, $75.78, versus the $101.68 paid in 2006.

As the "Entertainment Capital of the World," Las Vegas has always prided itself on its production shows, headliners and other forms of entertainment.

But last year, fewer visitors attended a show: the percentage that saw a production show dropped from 72 percent in 2008 to 64 percent last year, nearly equaling the all-time low of 63 percent in 2007.

Visitors did, however, see more concert headliners and comedians in the local comedy shops. Concert attendance increased from 18 percent in 2008 to 19 percent last year, while the number of visitors who took in a comedy show increased from 14 percent in 2008 to 18 percent last year.

Obviously, the economy has had an effect on visitors’ ability to spend money in Las Vegas, but it has also affected how they get here.

As airline costs have increased, more people are driving to Las Vegas. Last year 58 percent said they drove to Las Vegas, up from 57 percent in 2008 and from 53 percent in 2005.

Not unexpectedly, fewer visitors flew: 42 percent last year said they traveled by air to Las Vegas, down from 43 percent in 2008 and from 47 percent in 2005.

As far as the actual demographics of the typical visitor, he or she on average was 50 years old last year, virtually the same age (50.6 years) as in 2008 and slightly older than the 49 years in 2007.

Most visitors were married (78 percent, down from 80 percent in 2008) and had a household income of over $40,000 (83 percent, the same as in 2008).

The West, California in particular, continues to be a major feeder market for Las Vegas. About 55 percent last year said they were from Western states, up from 52 percent in 2008; 31 percent said they were from California, up from 28 percent in 2008.

The number of Vegas visitors from outside the country took a slight dip in 2009, but is still higher than in prior years. Last year, 14 percent of visitors came from a foreign country, down from 15 percent, but up from the 12 percent in 2007.