Some resorts say weekend wasn't all that bad

LAS VEGAS - It could have been worse.

Despite concerns New Year's Eve would be a bust, resort officials now say the holiday wasn't as bad as had been feared, with tourism figures running higher than had been proected in the waning days of 1999.

The occupancy level for the city's 121,665 hotel rooms was 91.5 percent on New Year's Eve, higher than the 85 percent that had been projected, according to Rob Powers, spokesman for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

The visitor count was 251,000, which was down from 277,000 forecast early last year, but higher than 244,000 predicted in late December.

''Reaching almost 92 percent occupancy on New Year's Eve, in light of so many people planning to stay home, I think that's outstanding,'' Powers said Monday.

The economic impact, exclusive of gambling, was $150 million for the weekend, Powers said.

''By any measure, it has to be considered a strong holiday,'' Powers said. ''Perhaps not as strong as we had expected six months ago, but certainly stronger than we expected a month out.''

Alan Feldman, vice president of public affairs for Mirage Resorts Inc., said occupancy was 97 percent at the company's four Las Vegas hotel-casinos.

''The fact that - in the face of unparalleled competition from events, parties and concerts in virtually every major city around the world - our hotels were 97 percent occupied at premium rates with some 300,000 people partying in the streets, that sounds like an unabashed success,'' Feldman said.

''Whether anybody made any money is a different matter,'' Feldman said Monday. ''Expenses were very high this year, for services, goods and entertainment.''

Resort officials blamed Y2K concerns with keeping the count down. But some in the travel industry said the resorts had miscalculated when they bought into the idea that travelers would pay room rates up to $2,000 per night.

The rates were a problem citywide, said Shelley Mansholt, spokeswoman for the MGM Grand hotel-casino.

''Most of the major resorts went out with high prices,'' Mansholt said. ''With the Y2K frenzy, obviously a lot of people chose to stay home.''

The resorts were pricing on supply and demand, Powers said.

''Everybody around the world increased their prices, hotels, cruise lines, everybody. When the demand did not reach levels that we expected the prices came down,'' Powers said. ''In a free market economy, that's the way it works. The price went up on expectations, down on the reality of demand.''

MGM Grand sold out the resort's 5,005 rooms New Year's Eve at rates ranging from $119 to $1,100. Many were packages that included the Barbra Streisand concert at the resort's MGM Grand Garden Arena. MGM announced Monday that Streisand's New Year's Eve concert sold out the available 12,477 seats for a single-concert record gate of $14,694,750.

Mansholt said New Year's Eve was ''a huge success'' for the MGM Grand.

Citing company policy, Feldman and Mansholt would not discuss casino figures, a key barometer in whether it was a good or dismal holiday for the resorts.

Mandalay Resort Group's stock fell last week after it announced to shareholders it expects to report lower fourth-quarter earnings than 1998 because of weak New Year's Eve business.

Mandalay President Glenn Schaeffer said results for the quarter ending Jan. 31 were hurt by a lack of visitors to Las Vegas during the holiday weekend.


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