Las Vegas tourism continues a slow but steady ascent

Tourists pose in front of the iconic Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign in this file photo. Officials expect large, but not abnormal, crowds for Memorial Day weekend.

Visitation to Las Vegas remained status quo in September.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority today said 3.4 million tourists visited the city for the month, a 1.8 percent increase from a year ago. For the first three quarters of 2012, visitation was up by the same percentage, to 30.1 million.

At the current pace, visitation would fall just shy of the LVCVA’s goal of 40 million tourists for the year, but a good turnout for the National Finals Rodeo in December could put the total over the mark.

Visitation was up despite a double-digit decline in convention attendees, a drop in daily auto traffic and Labor Day losses in airline traffic at McCarran International Airport.

Despite the presence of MINExpo, an international mining industry show that occurs every four years, convention attendance is down 16 percent this year, to 364,648.

Even so, citywide occupancy rose 1.1 percentage points to 86.8 percent, and the average daily room rate was up 1 percent to $112.52 a night. For the first three quarters of the year, occupancy is flat at 85.3 percent, and the average daily room rate is up 3.3 percent, to $107.94.

Bill Lerner, a gaming industry analyst with Union Gaming in Las Vegas, said the numbers indicate a less affluent mix of visitors to the market.

Based on his analysis of the visitation figures and earlier released gaming-win statistics, Lerner said, each visitor contributed $148 in gaming revenue, a 0.6 percent decline from the amount produced by visitors a year ago.

September was Las Vegas’ fifth-best month of the year for visitation and ranked ahead of August.

The news for some of Southern Nevada’s rural destinations wasn’t as bright.

Visitation fell 7.8 percent over last year to 161,651 in Laughlin and 6 percent to 67,010 in Mesquite. For the first three quarters of 2012, Laughlin visitation is off 8.1 percent, while Mesquite's is up 2.9 percent.

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