by Richard Velotta, Las Vegas Review-Journal, January 27, 2022
Las Vegas visitation improved in 2021, but was still short of the pre-pandemic numbers of 2019, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority reported Thursday.
LVCVA researchers reported 32.2 million visitors for the year, 69.4 percent more than the 19 million who came in 2020, but 24.2 percent fewer than the 42.5 million who came in 2019 prior to the first indications that COVID-19 and its major variants would impact the tourism industry.
The all-time record visitation number of 42.9 million people was established in 2016.
The city’s December numbers weren’t as high as November’s, but they were far better than December 2020 and, in some categories, December 2019.
Visitor volume was 3 million for the month, up 140.9 percent from December 2020, but down 3.5 percent from November and down 13.3 percent from December 2019.
Convention attendance of 126,700 was off compared with November, December 2020 and December 2019. Hotel occupancy of 72.6 percent was down 5 points from November and 12.5 points from December 2019. The average daily room rate of $150.88 was down 3.2 percent from November, but up 50.7 percent and 20.6 percent from December 2020 and 2019, respectively.
Nearly every category of tourism indicators showed the same pattern of numbers — higher figures in 2021 over 2020, but lower numbers than in 2019.
Average room rate rises
But there were a few exceptions.
The key category of room occupancy rates in 2021 were higher than in 2020, but lower than in 2019. But the average daily room rate of 2021 was above both 2020 and 2019 levels.
“Overall hotel occupancy approached 67 percent for the year, dramatically ahead of 2020’s 42.1 percent, but below the 88.3 percent level of 2019,” said Kevin Bagger, vice president of the LVCVA research center.
“In part due to the challenged convention group segment, midweek saw annual occupancy reach 60.5 percent, up 23.1 percentage points from 2020, but down 25.8 points vs. 2019,” he said. “Compared to midweek activity, weekends saw a stronger recovery, exceeding 87 percent in seven out of 12 months and ending the year at 81.3 percent, up 28.5 points from 2020, but down 13.6 points vs. 2019.”
The number of rooms available in the Las Vegas market went up 0.7 percent from 2020 to 150,487, which was 5.1 percent more than in 2019, thanks primarily to new venues Circa in 2020 and Resorts World Las Vegas and Virgin Hotels Las Vegas in 2021.
Also noteworthy was that Clark County gaming win — the amount casinos won from players — was higher in 2021 than in 2020 and 2019, the Nevada Gaming Control Board reported earlier Thursday. Gaming win patterns were the same for the Strip and downtown Las Vegas.
Total gaming win for Clark County hit a record $11.5 billion in 2021. The previous high of $10.9 billion was recorded in 2007. That paralleled 2021’s statewide gaming win, which had a record $13.43 billion, besting 2007’s previous high of $12.85 billion.
Convention industry lagging
The convention industry, while rebounding, still remains well below 2019 figures.
“Amidst the challenges of COVID, active and evolving safety and health protocols across the destination allowed Las Vegas conventions and meetings to continue in 2021 with an estimated attendance of 2.2 million for the year, roughly a third of pre-COVID levels,” Bagger said.
Since June, Bagger said the Las Vegas Convention Center hosted 52 trade shows and events with more than 700,000 attendees, demonstrating the value of conducting business in-person and showcasing confidence by trades how organizers that meetings can be held safely and efficiently. That included the return of hallmark trade shows such as World of Concrete in June, which represented the first major trade show to reconvene in the United States since the start of the pandemic, and SEMA, an automotive industry trade show that attracted more than 100,000 attendees.
For 26 straight years, Las Vegas remains the top trade show destination in North America, according to the Trade Show News Network, the world’s leading resource for the trade show, exhibition and event industry.
The convention industry was bolstered by the completion and opening of the Convention Center’s $1 billion West Hall for World of Concrete. The show for the concrete and masonry industry returned to Las Vegas for its 2021 event last week.
Special events important
The convention authority is counting on major special events — concerts, residencies and sports — to attract people to Las Vegas on a regular basis.
The LVCVA board of directors approved approximately $27 million in investments to bring special events to Las Vegas through June 2022. And the destination shows no signs of slowing down.
It is poised to host the NFL Pro Bowl at Allegiant Stadium in February and the NFL draft at iconic areas throughout Las Vegas in April. Las Vegas also will host the Super Bowl at Allegiant Stadium in 2024.
One of the keys to the city’s success is that visitors are finding their way to Las Vegas, according to a research note issued Thursday by Joe Greff, a gaming analyst with New York-based J.P. Morgan.
“Relative to 2019, December average daily auto traffic was 8 percent higher on all major highways and 12.2 percent higher at Interstate 15 at the Nevada-California border,” Greff said. “Total air passengers was 3.87 million, down 3 percent sequentially and down 9 percent vs. 2019.