Vegas tourism still recovering

LAS VEGAS -- The Las Vegas tourism industry's seesaw performance continued in October with the visitor count up 4.2 percent compared with last year, but down 4 percent compared with pre-terrorist attack October numbers.

"Given the dip in travel nationwide last year, we expected increased numbers in 2002, but they have not recovered to 2000 levels yet," Las Vegas Visitor Convention and Visitors Authority research director Kevin Bagger said.

Just more than 3 million visitors came to Las Vegas in October 2002, up from 2.9 million in 2001, but down from 3.1 million in 2000, before the terrorist attacks on the United States.

Laughlin was hit particularly hard, with 339,022 visitors in October 2002, down 11.5 percent to compared with 2001. Mesquite visitor volume was 137,962, up 0.5 percent from October 2001.

"Laughlin occupancy was down, but the gaming numbers were up. Gaming numbers traditionally are move volatile, but we're keeping tabs to see if it was an anomaly for occupancy to be that far down," Bagger said.

Mesquite visitor numbers have been hit by lower room availability caused by the conversion of some rooms at the Casa Blanca to extended stay units.

Occupancy rates for Las Vegas in October were up across the board compared with 2001.

Overall, Las Vegas occupancy rates for 2002 increased 2.8 percentage points from 2001 to 85 percent. But they decreased 6.3 points from 2000. Midweek occupancy rates posted the strongest gains in 2001, as did hotel properties compared with motels.

Compared with pre-Sept. 11 rates in 2000, motel occupancy rates were down 12.1 percentage points in October.

Many properties wrestled with midweek occupancy rates, down 8.1 points overall.

Attendance at conventions in Las Vegas this past October was 374,727, up 2.5 percent from the year before.

"We feel good about that," Bagger said, "especially since the convention and business sector travel nationwide have been soft."

Airport traffic hit 3.1 million in October, up 12 percent compared with October 2001, although the numbers remain 6.3 percent below October 2000 levels, Bagger said.


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