The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) announced last week that the destination attracted 38.9 million visitors in 2011, the second highest visitor total in history. This news comes on the heels of a recession that has catapulted the city to the top of the list for unemployment numbers and home foreclosures.
So what’s the catch?
You might say their Vegas is showing. The city took a leap in room inventory in 2008 and 2009 with the opening of the CityCenter properties, Wynn Encore, Palazzo, Red Rock Station, M Resort, Westgate at Planet Hollywood and a host of others. Those openings took shape along a backdrop of what had been tabbed the Manhattenization of Vegas in 2006 and 2007, as a rash of condohotel properties such as Signature and Palms Place caught the eyes of speculators and turned the Strip into a real estate treasure trove.
Then, with 150,000 hotel rooms to fill, the recession hit and knocked the wind out of the sails of discretionary travel. And Las Vegas took the hit. Hotel revenues in ’08 and ‘09 were down nearly 30 percent over 2007 levels and ADRs sank with them as properties start engaging in price wars to get the customers back.
But Vegas will always be Vegas and that means being the city of perpetual reinvention. It made lemonade in the form of pool parties – America’s party place with star DJs and guests packing the cabanas in the watery backlots of the city’s megaresorts. It built glitzier nightclubs, buzzier restaurants and made the city that much more dense with parties, action and reasons to make it on Vegas. And it took away the backhoes and cranes for awhile and let the dust settle for the first time in two decades.
“The new numbers reflect the strength of our brand as Las Vegas remains top of mind among travelers,” said Rossi Ralenkotter, president/CEO of the LVCVA. “The commitment of our resort partners to continue to invest in their properties allows Las Vegas to remain the premier travel destination in the world.”
Las Vegas attracted 4.3 percent more visitors than in 2010 and maintained a city-wide occupancy rate of nearly 84 percent for the year even with an inventory of more than 150,000 hotel rooms. Recovery in the convention industry contributed to the increase, with the destination hosting 8.8 percent more business travelers and 5.7 percent more events in 2011 than the previous year. McCarran International Airport reported a 4.3 percent increase in passengers for the year as well, although, as airlines continue to cut seats to Las Vegas, driving now accounts for 56% of the city’s arrivals.
Occurpancy rates hav been running at 84 percent (against a 57 percent national average) and average daily room rates jumped 10.7 percent, from $94.91 in 2010 to $105.11 in 2011.
“Las Vegas tourism is in a steady recovery and we believe the trend will continue in 2012,” said Ralenkotter. “We project 40 million visitors this year which would establish a new record.” Las Vegas hosted 39.2 million visitors in 2007.