Peter Yesawich, president and CEO at one of America’s top advertising and public relations agencies for travel, said Las Vegas would have to broaden its appeal to ward off "the boredom boom."
"The trend in vacations related to gaming has gone down five percent in the last five years," said Yesawich, whose company researched the traveling traits of leisure-oriented clients. "The decline is due to an increased interest in dining, golf and spas."
Yesawich was part of a panel of speakers at the American Gaming Summit held last Friday at the Rio.
He assured attendees that the gaming factor was "robust" but suggested that resort destinations can’t assume visitors will return just because they liked their initial visit.
"We found that 81 percent of the people we surveyed nationwide wanted to see other destinations for the first time," Yesawich said. "Not only that, but six of 10 adults wanted to take a cruise. When you consider that 51 percent of that group have never been on a cruise, it shows that this could be a threat to business, particularly in Las Vegas."
Yesawich also listed Las Vegas a surprising No. 10 on a list of the top 10 vacation destinations projected over the next two years.
"The Hawaiian Islands were the top choice among destination sites," he said. "National parks were right behind. The Florida Keys offer fishing and boating, Colorado and Tahoe have the mountains and skiing. New Orleans, Orlando and New York have the entertainment value."
John Bowen, director of graduate studies, tourism and hotel administration at UNLV, concurred with Yesawich’s findings.
"In 1997, there were 72 percent that traveled to Las Vegas for pleasure," Bowen said. "Last year, that figure dipped to 57 percent. Most people don’t tell you they come here to gamble. They prefer to say it’s the dining."
Bowen said there were four types of traveler that visits gaming resorts like Las Vegas — the high roller, escapist, loyalist and the value shopper.
"Bellagio, MGM Mirage and Caesars go after the high rollers," he said. "They like upscale entertainment. The escapist is coming with a $500 budget. The loyalist will head here by air, bus or car. Those here for the value are looking for free goods."
Bowen suggested that Las Vegas should market its shopping and golf courses more than in the past.
"The Venetian and the Forum Shops have been enormously successful and are great attractions," he said. "Golf is just taking off here. There has been a 50 percent increase in play."
Stephen Richer, executive director of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Convention & Visitors Bureau, said that his region is following the lead of Las Vegas.
"Las Vegas is the role model for all of us," Richer said. "We only have a $2 million budget so lots of our business is by word of mouth. However, we are making a strategic effort to make people come to our place."
The panel agreed that travelers are relying more on the Internet to generate their own travel deals and are taking more control of the bookings.
"When customers balk at rates now, it has become a new status symbol," Yesawich said. "The consumers are less likely to listen to experts and search for the best deal online. They are in the drivers seat."
Yesawich said that 54 percent of travelers limit vacation time to four nights or less tied to Saturdays.
"People just can’t afford to take a lot of time off work," he said. "Safety and security since 9-11 is also a reason."