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April 16, 2014

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No surprise: visitor numbers continue to soften

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority reported more of the same today: fewer visitors, especially convention goers, are coming to town.

Visitor volume fell 1 percent in March, compared with a 0.5 percent decline in February (minus the extra day for leap year) and a 0.6 percent drop in January.

The more compelling stats involve convention goers. The visitors authority isn't declaring doom and gloom, noting that the month's big trade show, ConExpo, drew an estimated crowd of 149,000 and is still the biggest show, based on square footage, in North America.

A few shows were held in February instead of March, in part because of the setup required for ConExpo, Kevin Bagger, director of Internet marketing and research, said. Trends are better explained over several months rather than one month because conventions are cyclical.

But the downward trend is indisputable. Four of the last six months have shown a decline in convention attendance, which was down 7 percent in March.

Room nights booked by conventioneers were down 16 percent in March and 11 percent for the three months ended March 31 compared with the same period last year.

Expense-card-wielding convention attendees have propped up Las Vegas room rates for years, so it's no surprise that average room rates are down 3 percent in the first quarter. Rates fell 1 percent in March.

Yet Bagger seemed pleased with hotel occupancy, which is down 1 percent in the first quarter and down 2 percent in March ­ not bad considering the state of the economy.

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