South Korea and the most iconic casino destination in the world are once again linked via nonstop flight service aboard Korean Air.
The 13-hour journey from South Korea’s Incheon International Airport to Las Vegas’ Harry Reid International resumed service yesterday, July 10. It was the nonstop flight’s first service since March 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic put normal life on hold in the US and around most of the world.
Las Vegas’ glitzy casino resorts on the Strip have long depended on Asian markets to keep their high roller rooms and tables bustling. The coronavirus resulted in much of that critical segment disappearing over the last two-plus years.
Yesterday, a Korean Air Airbus capable of transporting 218 passengers landed at Las Vegas’ primary commercial airport for the first time in more than 800 days. Korean Air is South Korea’s largest airliner and the country’s flag carrier, which affords the company preferential rights for routing when it comes to international operations. The commercial airliner says resuming its Las Vegas service is because of a post-COVID travel surge.
Korean Air first began nonstop service to Las Vegas in 2006. The airliner, effective now, is running three flights a week from Incheon to Las Vegas.
Along with Las Vegas, Korean Air is restoring international service to several other major US cities, including New York, DC, Honolulu, Atlanta, San Francisco, Boston, and Seattle.
It didn’t take long for Nevada casinos to return to pre-pandemic play. The foresight among gaming’s top executives, including then-Wynn Resorts CEO Matt Maddox, MGM Resorts boss Bill Hornbuckle, and downtown Las Vegas casino bigwig Derek Stevens, that the industry would quickly bounce back amid a new “Roaring 20s,” quickly proved accurate.
In fact, Nevada casinos are experiencing unprecedented business. Statewide gross gaming revenue (GGR) has eclipsed the $1 billion mark in each of the previous 15 months.
Pent-up demand has fueled the recovery rally, but the visitor volume has predominantly originated from domestic markets. GGR data supplied by the Nevada Gaming Control Board highlights the ongoing absence of international travel.
Baccarat is the game of choice for the majority of Asian gamblers. While Nevada casinos are winning more gaming money than ever before, GGR generated by the card game that involves the player betting against the banker remains suppressed from pre-pandemic levels.
Over the past 12 months ending May 2022, baccarat won shy of $1.1 billion for the casinos. Prior to the pandemic, the table game during the same 12-month period won more than $1.25 billion. The 12% disparity is even more drastic when inflation is factored in.
Top Feeder Markets
Though Las Vegas relies on and caters to Asian markets, domestic travel still represents the bulk of the city’s annual visitor traffic. Of the more than 42.5 million people who came to Las Vegas in 2019, just 13.3% came from international origins.
Mexico and Canada are naturally the top two international feeder markets, the neighboring countries collectively accounting for about 2.59 million guests of the 2019 volume. The top five overseas international feeder markets in 2019 were the UK (741,050 visitors), Australia (358,470), Japan (243,470), Germany (224,100), and China (205,360).
South Korea was responsible for approximately 201,930 Las Vegas visitors in 2019.
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