May 10, 2001 7:11 PM

Reversing a two-month trend, the volume of visitors to Las Vegas increased to 3.3 million in March, a 5.5% increase over the 3.1 million who traveled here in March 2000, according to the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority.

In February, visitor volume fell 3.9% from last year, and a combined 1.8% for the first two months of 2001.

Helping to fuel the surge was a whopping 33.6% increase in convention visitors, from 374,952 in March 2000, to 500,815 in March.

Underscoring the growing importance of convention business, 73% of the increase in visitors to Las Vegas can be directly attributed to new convention traffic.

The increase in convention visitors also spurred a 7.9% increase in airline passenger traffic to Las Vegas.

However, drive-in automobile traffic continues to diminish: 439,000 cars were counted at the Yermo inspection station in March, down 4.5% from the 460,000 counted in March 2000. In February, auto traffic decreased 4.3% from last year’s volume.