Tourism survey indicates fewer visitors to Las Vegas from California

Las Vegas News Bureau / Courtesy

Former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar B. Goodman and current Mayor Carolyn Goodman dedicate the City of Las Vegas’ gateway sign.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority this week released its annual visitor profile study.

The study, which was presented at Tuesday’s authority board meeting, used information from about 3,600 surveys taken at various Las Vegas properties, both on and off the Strip.

For more than four decades, the survey has been a tool to find out who’s visiting Las Vegas, where they are from, and what they do here after they arrive. It also shows how much money they make and what they’re spending money on in Southern Nevada.

Here are some highlights from the survey:

Less California love

Are all the people from Southern California already here?

While it’s no secret that a good portion of transplants come to the Las Vegas Valley from the crowded metropolitan areas of Southern California, visits from California residents to Las Vegas are down, the survey indicates.

Just under 20 percent of U.S. visitors to Las Vegas last year came from Southern California. That number is down from 26 percent in 2017.

As a whole, the state of California sent 23 percent of all U.S. visitors to Las Vegas last year. That’s a decrease from the four years prior to 2018, when California tourists represented an average of 31 percent of all U.S. visitors to Las Vegas.

“In 1998, about 28 percent of our visitors were from Southern California,” said Kevin Bagger, vice president of the authority’s research arm. “The 2018 number could be an anomaly based on our sampling method, but it could be an indicator of some evolving changes in the market.”

Visitor demographics

The survey showed that 77 percent of American tourists to the city classified themselves as Caucasian. That’s up from 69 percent in 2017.

Black visitors represented just 7 percent of the tourists, down from 12 percent the previous year, while Hispanics visitors accounted for 10 percent, down from 14 percent in 2017.

More than gambling

Only 1 percent of those who responded said the primary purpose for their trip was to gamble. Part of that is because Las Vegas has evolved into a destination that also includes top dining, entertainment, shopping and more. 

“Historically, the percentage of people who say they’re here to gamble has always been small,” Bagger said. “We know that’s part of their experience, but they don’t really say that’s why they’re here.” 

Visiting family

People were more likely, according to this year’s survey, to say they were in Las Vegas to visit friends or relatives.

“Part of that is the result of a local economy that is strong,” Bagger said. “Part it is a function of our sampling because we’re making sure to get as representative a percentage as possible. Those people may not do as many activities on the Strip, but they do still engage in a lot of activities.”

Younger visitors

While the average age of a Las Vegas visitor can range quite a bit, tourists are getting younger. That average age was just over 45 last year, which is almost five years younger than in 1998, according to the survey.

“Las Vegas has been successful decade after decade because we have an appeal across generations,” Bagger said. “We have (adult) visitors in their 20s all the way up to their 80s. It’s still a broad mix, but the average age has gone down in recent years.”

Millennials became the largest visitor age group in 2017 and remained so last year, Bagger said. Still, Baby Boomers and Generation Xers account for roughly two-thirds of visitors to Las Vegas.