Is Vegas losing its sex appeal?

Apr 29, 2008 7:03 PM

By David Stratton | Earlier this year, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) announced that a record 39.2 million visitors came to Las Vegas in 2007, the fourth consecutive record-breaking year.

At the same time, the LVCVA predicted that 39.8 million people would visit Las Vegas in 2008.

Last week, the LVCVA released the results of its annual 2007 Las Vegas Visitor Profile survey, which takes a closer look at the demographics and spending patterns of Vegas visitors.

While most of the survey results tended to follow previous years’ results, there was one "spike" in visitors’ collective opinion of their trip: their satisfaction level sunk to an all-time low.

Specifically, when asked if they were "very satisfied" with their visit to Las Vegas, only 89 percent of those surveyed said yes. That proportion was the first to sink below 90 percent in the survey’s history, down from 96 percent in 2006 and far from the 99 percent recorded in 1999.

Although the survey didn’t specifically ask about what was "unsatisfying" about their visit to Las Vegas, some responses could give a clue as to what caused the significant drop-off.

Some of the contributing factors may include:

• Even though the number of first-time visitors to Las Vegas has remained fairly constant (19 percent the last two years), there’s been a drop-off in the number who vacation or come for pleasure.

• Visitors are spending less on gambling, entertainment, food/dining and sightseeing.

• Fewer visitors venture downtown – only 40 percent last year versus 48 percent in 2006 and 57 percent in 2004.

Beyond overall visitor satisfaction, here is a closer look at some of the other survey results.

As noted above, fewer visitors last year said they came to town primarily for vacation or pleasure (42 percent last year versus 49 percent in 2006 and 63 percent in 2003).

The difference was made up by increases in the number of people who came to town for conventions or to visit relatives or friends.

Equally important, the percentage of visitors who gambled in a casino dropped last year to 84 percent, down from 87 percent in 2006 and 89 percent in 2002.

Not only did the number of gamblers decrease, so did the amount they budgeted as their bankroll: last year, the average gambling budget was $555.64, down from the $651.94 budgeted in 2006.

Unfortunately for the hotels, visitors were not spending more on their non-gambling expenditures. In fact, every category except the cost of the actual guest room, reported less spending than the previous year. Those average expenditures included:

• Restaurants and dining, $254.49 (down from $260.68 in 2006)

• Shopping, $114.50 (down from $140.86 in 2006)

• Shows and entertainment, $47.87 (down from $50.81 in 2006)

• Sightseeing, $8.31 (down from $8.49 in 2006).

As noted, the average cost of an average hotel room was higher last year, $108.87, versus the $107.12 paid in 2006.

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

But last year, fewer visitors attended a show: the percentage who saw a show dropped from 76 percent in 2006 to 63 percent last year.

Visitors did, however, see more concert headliners and comedians in the local comedy shops. Concert attendance increased from 17 percent in 2006 to 19 percent last year, while the number of visitors who took in a comedy show increased from 14 percent in 2006 to 21 percent last year.

As far as the actual demographics of the typical visitor, he or she was slightly older last year (average age was 49 versus 48 in 2006), slightly wealthier (80 percent had a household income of over $40,000 versus 78 percent the previous year) and mostly from the Western United States (52 percent said they were from the West; 31 percent said they were from California).