Thursday, Dec. 29, 2011 | 2 a.m.
- New Year’s timing could be better, but ‘powerful’ weekend is expected (Dec. 28, 2011)
- Guide to New Year’s Eve in Las Vegas (Dec. 26, 2011)
- The most expensive New Year’s Eve dinners in Las Vegas (Dec. 27, 2011)
As celebrities like Kim Kardashian pack the VIP lists, thousands of travelers are packing their bags and heading to Las Vegas this New Year’s Eve.
“What’s happening in the destination is obviously good,” says Scott Russell, senior research manager for the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority.
Kardashian — and the long lists of celebrities popping up all over the city — are among approximately 314,000 visitors, some 5,000 more than last year, who want to celebrate the New Year as only they can in Las Vegas.
The bubbly spurt of visiting New Year's Eve revelers is also expected to put some last-minute dazzle into the local economy — Russell says their economic impact will be greater than last year.
He says New Year's Eve visitors are expected to spend $192.6 million in non-gaming purchases on items such as show tickets, dinners and shopping, or about $3 million more than in 2010.
“It’s revitalizing itself,” Russell said, adding that the visitors who come back usually experience a new attraction each time. “That’s what makes it exciting each year.”
And the visitors are filling up the city. The LVCA says room occupancy is projected to hit 98 percent based on more than 150,000 rooms in the city, which is a 1.6 percent increase over 2010.
The LVCVA's projections are based on findings from an annual survey that asks Las Vegas visitors about their gambling behavior, entertainment expenses and reasons for visiting.
“We’re able to use our model to project a very close occupancy,” Russell said. “We expect that there are still rooms available.”
As the variables change, so do the tourism-related figures.
Las Vegas reached a high point in 2008, with 312,000 visitors, who spent nearly $200 million over the New Year's holiday, he said.
Russell says there are various reasons for the changing figures this year, including more hotel rooms, cheaper deals and tourists just spending less.
Las Vegas is also benefiting this year by a growth in travel in general across the country.
The AAA auto club projects an estimated 7 million Mountain West residents — those living in the region comprised of states like Nevada, Arizona, Utah and New Mexico — will travel during this holiday season. That's an increase of about 2.2 percent over 2010.
The number of Mountain West travelers is among 91.1 million people AAA predicts will travel 50 miles or more during the holidays. That's an increase of 1.4 percent compared to this time last year.
The increase in travelers will not only boost the Las Vegas economy, but will add to traffic congestion on local roads and highways.
Nevada Highway Patrol trooper Loy Hixson anticipates about 100,000 more vehicles on the roadways for the holiday weekend.
“We’re one of the top spots for the New Year’s,” said Hixson, whose assessment is backed by Travelocity, one of the leading travel agencies in the country.
Las Vegas was ranked fourth on the list of top 10 travel destinations this New Years Eve based on airfare and hotel rates, according to Travelocity.
The average airfare for Las Vegas is around $330 a night and the average daily lodging rate came around $180, Travelocity says.
Travelocity lists Orlando, New York and South Florida as the top three destinations respectively.