Millions Visit Las Vegas in July, But Tourism Less Than Pre-Pandemic Levels

The number of people visiting Las Vegas continues to climb higher, but the totals are lower than pre-pandemic levels.

Las Vegas sign
Las Vegas sign
Two visitors converse near the Las Vegas welcome sign at the southern end of the Strip in March 2020. Las Vegas has seen an increase in tourism since the early days of the pandemic. (Image: Las Vegas Review-Journal)

This year in July, the Las Vegas Valley attracted 3.3 million visitors, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. That total is an increase of 129 percent over the 1.43 million who arrived one year earlier during the first stages of the pandemic. But this year’s total is 10.4 percent lower than the pre-pandemic month of July 2019, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

Tourism officials use 2019 totals to determine whether the area is recovering from the pandemic.

The July tourism total this year is higher than the  2.9 million visitors who made their way to Las Vegas in June, indicating an upward trend in visitors.

When COVID-19 cases began to spike in March 2020, Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) ordered casinos statewide to close. The tourism-dependent Nevada economy went into a slump, at one point leading the nation in unemployment at more than 34 percent, according to the Wall Street Journal.

After Sisolak allowed casinos to reopen in June 2020, some began operating again right away, while others reopened over time. One resort in downtown Las Vegas, Main Street Station Casino Brewery Hotel, still has not reopened. Officials at Boyd Gaming, which owns the hotel-casino, have announced it will be back in business on Sept. 8. 

With the national rollout of vaccines and stimulus checks, the Las Vegas economy began to improve at the beginning of 2021. From January-July 2021, almost 16.8 million tourists visited the city, according to the LVCVA. That is an increase of 50.3 percent over the first seven months of 2020, but a third lower than the same period in pre-pandemic 2019.

International Travel Down

Two categories important to the Las Vegas economy, conventions and international travelers, continue to record low numbers. These two segments are seen as vital in filling up hotel rooms, especially during the slow middle of the week. Last year, low consumer demand forced several resorts on the Las Vegas Strip to close their hotel towers temporarily. 

Conventions have been slow to return. This comes as health officials in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Hawaii have cautioned against traveling to Las Vegas because of the area’s rising infections and low vaccination rates.

The large CES convention, slated for Las Vegas in January, is still scheduled to occur. Organizers are requiring attendees and exhibitors to be vaccinated.

At McCarran International Airport, the number of arriving and departing passengers has gone up the past few months. But the airport is down by more than 9 million passengers when compared to the pre-pandemic first seven months of 2019.

International flights continue to lag. In July, 64,425 international travelers made their way through the airport, most on airlines based in Mexico. That figure is 80.8 percent below July 2019’s total of 335,135.

Positive Signs

While indicators such as international travel and conventions are lower than tourism officials had hoped for, others factors are a source of optimism. Figures released this week indicate people are spending money gambling in local resorts and are paying higher rates to stay in hotel rooms. 

In July, Clark County casinos won $1.1 billion, an 89.7 percent increase over the $612.8 million in casino wins one year earlier. Las Vegas is in Clark County.

Also in July, the average daily room rate of $152.13 was the third-highest ever for any month, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. 

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