Visitor spending up

May 17, 2005 3:59 AM

While gaming operators might be euphoric over March’s record gaming revenue figures, the newly-released Las Vegas Visitor Profile Study 2004 reinforces the notion that tourists are spending more money, both in and out of the casinos.

According to the study compiled by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA), the average tourist last year spent $953 for food, gambling, shows and shopping, up a healthy 13.8 percent from the previous year’s average of $837.

The increase reversed a trend of declining spending habits that began in 2001, but was still less than the all-time high of $984.94 spent in 2000.

The largest spending increases were in the average tourist’s shopping budget, which increased by 27 percent from $97 in 2003 to $125 last year.

The average tourist also spent more money gambling: $544 in 2004 versus $490 in 2003, an 11 percent increase, and his food and drink budget expanded by 14 percent from $208 in 2003 to $238 in 2004.

The increase in the amount budgeted for gambling was encouraging for many casino operators since the trend in recent years has been to spend less in the casino while spending more on dining, entertainment, shopping and accommodations.

"It’s nice to see that tourists are still spending the bulk of their budget in the casino," said a shift supervisor at a Strip resort. "Even though our dining and shopping venues are important, our greatest margin is found in our casino product."

The LVCVA’s Visitor Profile tracks key tourism trends from year-to-year, based on extensive polling and interviews conducted throughout the year.

Other trends include:

”¡ More travelers are visiting downtown: About 56 percent of visitors said they visited downtown Las Vegas, about 10 percent more than the previous year, although still less than the 60 percent who visited downtown five years ago.

”¡ First-time visitors to Las Vegas increased by just 1 percent in 2004 to 19 percent, still substantially below the 26 percent recorded in 1999.

”¡ Fewer tourists are using travel agents: only 20 percent used an agent to help plan their trip, down from 22 percent in 2003.

”¡ More tourists are using the Internet to plan their trip: Nearly 40 percent of visitors used the Internet, up from 32 percent in 2003.

”¡ More visitors are playing slots: 64 percent said they preferred slots, up significantly from 56 percent last year and 53 percent in 2001.

”¡ Conversely, fewer visitors said they play video poker: 9 percent in 2004, down from 12 percent in both 1999 and 2000, and 17 percent in 2001 and 2002.

”¡ The majority of visitors continue to be middle-aged Americans, though they tend to be younger: 72 percent said they were over 40 years old, down from 75 percent in 2003; and the average visitor’s age of 49 years was down from 50.2 years the previous year.