Las Vegas Sun

October 25, 2014

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Tourism column:

Comments tell more than we want to know about cabbies

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Southern Nevada's sixth La Quinta near Sunset Road and Eastern Avenue on Surrey Street has 140 rooms and 35 suites and can accommodate 155 people for meetings.

Hotels.com has proclaimed Las Vegas taxicabs as the best overall in the country.

Unfortunately, the detailed comments of the more than 1,900 travelers participating in the company’s annual survey give a different picture of the industry that has won the praise of one of the leading online lodging providers in the nation.

Hotel.com said Las Vegas’ cabdrivers ranked in the top three in seven categories — cleanliness, value, quality of driving, knowledge of the area, friendliness, safety and availability.

Las Vegas cabbies beat out their counterparts in Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Orlando, Fla., receiving 11.7 percent of the national vote as the country’s friendliest drivers.

Las Vegas has about 2,000 cabs on the road at any given time and the industry has averaged 2.16 million trips a month in 2010.

Although cab customers were generous in their praise of local cabbies, a few comments indicate there are a few bad apples in the field.

There were 756 responses to the question, “What is the most memorable experience, good or bad, that you have ever had in a taxi anywhere in the world?”

Among the responses about Las Vegas:

“The driver took shortcuts to get us to our destination fast. He was very courteous and was telling jokes to us. The real shocker is that he actually drove safely. Not like some taxi drivers who drive reckless.”

And: “We had been traveling up and down the Strip in Vegas, and we got into a cab where the driver made sure that he was taking us on the shortest and quickest route so that we wouldn’t have to pay as much. The cost was about half as much as we had been paying with other drivers.”

But then, there were these comments:

“Worst experience was in Las Vegas where the taxi driver drove us all over town and did not take us straight to our destination. The driver thought he could get away with it, but we had been to Vegas before, and knew he was NOT going directly to the hotel. After pointing out that he wasn’t going the right way, he claimed he was ‘giving us a scenic route so we could see the city.’ We told him he better take us directly to our hotel or we were getting out and taking a different taxi. He finally stopped trying to cheat us and took us straight to our hotel.”

And: “Took a cab in Vegas and the driver went the longest route even though I had a printout of directions.”

Some who commented told stories best saved for HBO’s “Taxicab Confessions.”

“In Las Vegas, someone was trying to make a quick buck by picking us up before his next scheduled pickup. Not realizing that the traffic was going to be so bad, he was late for his scheduled appointment. He was driving fast and like a maniac but to top it off he flipped down a TV screen and started showing a porn video thinking we might like it. Luckily, we were drunk enough that we thought it was hysterical, but in hindsight it was quite offensive.”

The survey also asked customers to offer their best advice to fellow travelers:

“I always ask the cabbies for tips on good night life or restaurants in the city. When in Vegas, I ask which hotels or games are the luckiest. Cabbies are the experts on their town — utilize their knowledge!”

Customers also have caught on to drivers’ propensity to long-haul their passengers:

“In Vegas, tell the driver to not take the tunnel exiting the airport,” and “Don’t take the tunnel to the Vegas Strip.” One also advised, “Avoid taxis in Las Vegas, drivers are crazy.”

Finally, surveyors asked about the strangest vehicle in which they had ever received a taxi ride. While some enjoyed the limousines and stretch Hummers, one respondent said, “I was in Las Vegas and my taxi driver installed a karaoke machine in his car. While we we’re getting home late in the evening, we were belching out Britney Spears in the back.”

Convention traffic growing

A gaming industry analyst reported in a recent note to investors that convention bookings are increasing in the second half of 2010, a positive trend in overall visitation.

Bill Lerner, an analyst with Union Gaming Research, said convention attendance peaked in 2006 with an average of 525,663 per month. But since then, attendance fell dramatically — until this year.

“We’ve been examining forward Las Vegas convention bookings and are encouraged by the results for ‘large’ conventions (more than 10,000 delegates),” Lerner said. “Large convention bookings in the second half of 2010 suggest modest positive inflection, which in turn we believe will help weekday room rates. Further, this should aid visibility for the Las Vegas Strip and may be a precursor to a longer-term recovery.”

Lerner said part of the increase can be attributed to comparisons from weaker months, some of which resulted when President Barack Obama suggested in February 2009 that corporations shouldn’t use stimulus money to go to Las Vegas, which resulted in several corporate convention cancellations.

“Currently, we believe that Las Vegas represents great value when compared to other convention destinations, given the cheap midweek room rates and favorable room product relative to pricing. This would help explain a large number of conventions that are new to Las Vegas coming in the next few months,” he said.

Lerner said 141,000 people are expected to attend large conventions in September, including 67,000 coming for shows that are new to Las Vegas. Another 89,000 delegates to large conventions — 11,000 for new show — are anticipated in October. November doesn’t have any new shows, but the big shows are expected to draw 168,700 people.

Among the big shows on the horizon are this month’s Mr. Olympia show at the Orleans (30,000 people), and the International Baking Industry Expo at the Las Vegas Convention Center (35,000), October’s Specialty Graphics National Conference at the Las Vegas Convention Center (22,000) and the Automotive Service and Repair Week 2010 at Mandalay Bay (20,000), and November’s Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week at the Las Vegas Convention Center (106,000) and the Global Gaming Expo at the Convention Center (29,000).

Taxi statistics

Speaking of Las Vegas taxis, July’s industry statistics reflected another healthy month for the 16 companies serving Clark County.

There were 2.1 million trips in July, an 8.6 percent increase over July 2009’s total. Lucky Cab had the best percentage increase for the month, a 13.6 percent increase to 102,424 trips.

Revenue per shift was up 4.5 percent to $248.13 with Lucky and Nellis cabs having 8.6 percent increases.

Trips per shift and trips per medallion were up for the month, but the one negative came in revenue per trip, which was down 3.1 percent to $13.25 from July 2009. Only one company — A-Cab, which is restricted from picking up passengers at the airport and on the Strip — had an increase in revenue per trip, and its increase was only 1.5 percent to $14.50.

Every month this year has had an increase in monthly trips compared with the previous year with January and June showing the strongest increases with 12.8 percent and 12.2 percent increases, respectively. May was the busiest month for cabbies so far with 2.4 million trips.

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