Vegas visitors up the ante

May 1, 2007 5:15 AM

Visitors to Las Vegas spent more and budgeted more for gambling in 2006, although fewer visitors came to the resort city strictly for pleasure, according to the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority annual Visitor Profile.

According to a survey of 3,600 visitors last year, the average amount a visitor reported spending on lodging, food and drink, transportation, shopping, shows and sightseeing increased since 2005.

The amount people budgeted for gambling also went up, the LCVCA said.

"That sort of mirrors what’s going on in the destination in terms of the addition of non-gaming products and attractions," said the authority’s director of research Kevin Bagger.

Visitors on average said they spent $107.12 per night on lodging, up from $99.51 in 2005; $662.78 on tour packages, up from $571.43; $260.68 on food and drink, up from $248.40; $140.68 on shopping, up from $136.60; $50.81 on shows, up from $49.43; and $651.94 for gambling, up from $626.50.

The survey also revealed that fewer visitors are traveling for fun: Only 49 percent indicated their trip was a vacation or pleasure-oriented, down from an average of 62 percent the last three years.

The drop in vacation/pleasure visits was accompanied by an increase in visits for convention and meetings, to visit family and friends, and to gamble.

Escalating gas prices didn’t seem to deter travelers who drove into Las Vegas: about 48 percent of visitors drove their own car to Las Vegas, nearly unchanged from the 47 percent in 2005.

The trend toward a younger visitor appeared to flatten as the average visitor’s age reached 48, up slightly from 47.7 years in 2005. The tick upward did halt a trend that saw the average age decline steadily since 2000.

Many aspects of the survey stayed mostly unchanged.

The average visitor stayed 4.6 days and 3.6 nights, up 0.1 in each case. Some 79 percent were married, 70 percent were employed, and 48 percent had a college degree.

A new question asked visitors who came for a vacation what motivated them on a scale of 1 to 5.

Dining and restaurants scored on average 3.7, gambling scored 3.6, seeing resorts scored 3.6, shows and entertainment ranked 3.3 and shopping came in at 3.0. Clubs and nightlife scored 2.3, spas 1.4 and golf 1.3.

"The visitor is drawn by a mix of dining and the gaming opportunities as well as the resort properties themselves," Bagger said. "So there’s not one element that’s drawing them. It’s really a combination of several factors."

Las Vegas attracted a record 38.9 million visitors in 2006, up 0.9 percent from a year earlier, despite a 0.4 percent drop in the number of available rooms to 132,590.

The authority has projected 39.3 million people will come to Las Vegas in 2007, helped in part by some 5,010 additional hotel rooms, boosting the city’s inventory to around 137,600. About 171,000 rooms are expected to be available by 2010.