Vegas visitation slides 4.4 percent in 2008

Feb 12, 2009 7:43 PM
by David Stratton |

The number of visitors to Las Vegas dropped nearly 11 percent to 2.7 million in December, compared to more than 3 million in December 2007, according to LVCVA’s (Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority) monthly report.

The month-over-month decline was the largest in 2008, and capped a year in which overall visitation to Las Vegas slid 4.4 percent to 37.4 million, compared to 39.2 million visitors in 2007.

While the annual decline in visitation was significant, it was less than half the decline in Strip casino revenue (10.6 percent).

The bulk of the drop-off in incoming visitors was felt at McCarran International Airport, where passenger traffic was down 14.1 percent for December and 7.7 percent for the year.

Automobile traffic from Southern California was less affected as gas prices plummeted at year’s end. For December, traffic on I-15 at state line was down only 1.3 percent, and slipped 5.3 percent for the year.

The drop in visitation had a significant effect on Las Vegas’ hotel occupancy and average daily room rates.

In December, citywide occupancy plummeted 10 percent to 73.3 percent – the lowest monthly occupancy rate on record. For the year, citywide occupancy reached 86 percent, about 4.4 percent less than 2007.

Although the 86 percent occupancy for the year was the highest in any major U.S. city, it couldn’t match the record 90.4 percent set in 2007.

As a result, many hoteliers had to slash rates, especially over the last few months of the year, in order to fill rooms.

In December, the city’s average daily room rate sunk to $96 a night, about 14 percent less than the $112 rooms commanded a year earlier.

For the year, the average cost of rooms tumbled nearly 10 percent, from $132.09 in 2007 to $119.19 last year.