Visitors still coming to Las Vegas

Jul 15, 2008 7:04 PM

By GT Staff | As reported in our page one story, gambling revenues on the Las Vegas Strip plummeted by 16 percent in May, the steepest month-over-month decline in more than 10 years.

Oddly, the number of visitors to Las Vegas actually increased by about 0.4 percent in May, according to the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority (LVCVA).

Gaming Control Board analyst Frank Streshley reconciled the disconnect by pointing out casinos weren’t as lucky as they have been historically, and that visitors simply weren’t spending as much as they have in the past.

There are other factors that probably have come into play.

First, more visitors are coming to Las Vegas for reasons other than vacation or pleasure. According to the LVCVA’s latest visitor profile, only 42 percent of visitors surveyed in 2007 said they came for vacation, a significant drop from the 61 percent polled two years earlier.

Among the reasons for visiting Las Vegas, the non-vacationers cited visiting a friend or relative 13 percent of the time, nearly double the number two years earlier.

Nonetheless, there are some statistics that still don’t add up.

According to the LVCVA report, in May the number of airline passengers to Las Vegas dropped nearly 5 percent, while auto traffic into the city slipped by more than 6 percent.

So, how did the overall visitor volume increase by 0.4 percent? At last glance, there were no cruise ships docking on Fremont Street, and covered wagons ceased operations a century ago.

A local travel agent suggested that more travelers could be using tour or chartered buses to get here. And travelers from nearby states such as Utah and California might be doubling up – car pooling, if you will – in order to cut down on fuel costs.

The bottom line, however, is that regardless of how they’re getting here, they’re spending less. Not just in the casinos, but for food, entertainment and shopping, according to the LVCVA survey.

"We feel the results of the survey reflect the impact of a slowing economy on travel to and spending on the Strip," said J.P. Morgan analyst Joe Greff. "When it stops is tough to forecast with any great precision, though we think this continues through the summer."