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April 20, 2014

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Holiday forecast in Las Vegas: More visitors spending less

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Justin M. Bowen

Thousands watched a Fourth of July fireworks display July 4, 2009, at Caesars Palace on the Las Vegas Strip.

With Fourth of July falling on a weekend, Las Vegas tourism officials say they expect a slight uptick in visitors traveling to the valley for the holiday.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority said it expects about 285,000 visitors this weekend compared to 277,000 in 2009 -- a 2.9 percent increase.

LVCVA spokesman Jeremy Handel said Las Vegas typically sees more visitor traffic when a holiday like Fourth of July falls on a weekend.

But like most holiday weekends since the recession, the LVCVA said visitors likely will be spending less than before the recession. Non-gaming spending is expected to be off by 2.9 percent, the LVCVA said.

Citywide hotel occupancy is forecast to dip by 1.9 percentage points from last year, mainly due to the addition of about 7,500 rooms since the last Fourth of July holiday.

This year, Las Vegas fell from No. 2 to No. 9 on Priceline.com’s annual Fourth of July destination list. The survey is based on more than 30,000 booking requests made by U.S. customers on the travel website.

Priceline spokesman Brian Ek said that while Las Vegas remains a significant destination for the holiday weekend, an increase in airfares might have contributed to pushing the city further down the list.

Priceline’s airfare index, which looks at 30 routes where fares have been significantly raised or cut from the previous week, lists four routes to Las Vegas with fare increases ranging from 2 to 10 percent. The Minneapolis-to-Las Vegas and Detroit-to-Newark routes tied for the highest week-over-week fare increases at 10 percent.

Ek said airfares have increased by 25 percent from last year, primarily due to airlines reducing the numbers of flights offered last year -- but the number of flights hasn’t returned as demand has increased, he said.

Destinations like Niagara Falls, Toronto and St. Louis, which Priceline classifies as “drive-to” destinations, crept above Las Vegas on Priceline’s annual list. One of the reasons the cities rank high of the list is because of their regional casinos, Ek said.

“A lot of what drives the Fourth of July traffic and the reason why it’s mainly a ‘drive-to’ holiday is because people are going to where the big fireworks displays are,” Ek said. “As long as there is a major city near you, you probably don’t need to go very far.”

Auto club AAA said Fourth of July marks one of the busiest national travel days of the year. Nationally, AAA said 34.9 million people will travel during the holiday weekend, a 17.1 percent increase from last year. More than 90 percent of travelers will get to their destination by car, according to AAA.

In the Mountain region, which includes Nevada, 2.75 million people are expected to travel, a 19 percent increase from last year. Among those residents traveling, more than 88 percent will travel by car.

The Pacific region, which includes Californians who might be driving to Las Vegas, will see a similar increase in travel this year, with about 2.57 million people traveling this weekend. More than 87 percent of those traveling will get to their destination by car.

Travel and ticketing website VEGAS.com, a sister company to the Las Vegas Sun, said its seen a slight increase in bookings for the holiday weekend, up 2 percent from last year. The average daily room rate for rooms sold increased 7 percent, from $92.32 in 2009 to $98.80 this year.

But room rates are still significantly lower than to the last three-day weekend. VEGAS.com reported an average daily room rate of $127.80 for Memorial Day weekend.

Dan Hippler, marketing director at VEGAS.com, said the decline is attributed to the seasonally low room rates that typically occur in late June though July.

MGM Resorts spokeswoman Yvette Monet said the company’s booking trends for this year’s holiday are similar to last year’s.

“We’re even with last year, which is excellent considering the additions of Aria and Vdara,” she said.

Monet said the company expects all of its properties to sell out or come close to selling out. Last-minute rates at MGM Resorts properties range from $80 a night at Circus Circus to $266 at Bellagio.

At Harrah’s Entertainment properties, the average daily room rate ranges from $118 at Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall to $463 at Caesars Palace.

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