Las Vegas visitor volume began its COVID-19 recovery last year, but the gaming and convention capital of the United States still has a way to go to reach pre-pandemic levels experienced in 2019.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) reported this week that approximately 32.23 million out-of-towners traveled to Southern Nevada in 2021. While that’s a 69.4 percent jump from 2020, the number remains 24.2 percent below 2019. Prior to COVID-19 forever changing the world, Las Vegas welcomed more than 42.5 million visitors in 2019.
Hotel occupancy naturally remained reduced in 2021 compared with 2019. Strip casino hotels reported an average occupancy rate of 68 percent — far better than the 42.1 percent rate in 2020 but severely lagging behind the 90.4 percent experienced occupancy rate in 2019.
The reduction in visitor volume didn’t negatively impact gaming, as Clark County casinos reported record revenue of $11.45 billion — 75 percent better than 2020 and nearly 11 percent better than 2019.
Leisure travel has returned to Las Vegas. The culprit for the continued overall visitor volume suppression is the convention sector.
Exhibition attendance became nonexistent during the height of the pandemic in 2020, which prompted the LVCVA into halting its reporting on convention numbers. The tourism and convention agency continued to hold off on relaying meeting numbers throughout 2021, only reporting the final tally with its year-end report.
Convention volume last year totaled just 2.2 million attendees. While that’s a 27.7 percent year-over-year increase, the data point is almost 67 percent down from 2019.
Should omicron become contained and organizers of large in-person business gatherings become more comfortable with restarting such exhibitions, Las Vegas visitor volume would be expected to return to 2019 numbers or better.
Amidst the challenges of COVID, active and evolving safety and health protocols across the destination allowed Las Vegas conventions and meetings to continue in 2021 with an estimated attendance of 2.2 million for the year, roughly a third of pre‐COVID levels,” the LVCVA summary stated.
Convention visitors play a critical role in the overall economic health of Las Vegas. They spend on average $463 on food and drink, $162 on shopping, and $27 on shows and entertainment.
But the convention market isn’t nearly as inclined to test their luck on a slot machine or table game. In fact, the LVCVA says convention visitors are far likelier to not gamble than other travelers.
The LVCVA 2019 Visitor Profile bunches visitors into four categories: convention visitors, package purchasers (those who came on a hotel package deal or part of a travel group), casino guests (those who stay in a casino resort overnight), and general tourists (those who stay at a non-casino hotel or motel, RV park, or elsewhere).
The agency reports that 37 percent of all conventioneers do not gamble during their stay. That’s the highest rate among the four categories. Only three percent of casino guests don’t gamble, while 18 percent of package travelers and 21 percent of tourists do not gamble.
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