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Las Vegas Visitor Volume Falls for 13th Month in a Row

By Howard Stutz, Las Vegas Review-JournalMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

August 12, 2009 - Budget-conscious tourists continued to avoid Las Vegas during June as visitor volume decreased for the 13th straight month and for the 16th time in the past 18 months.

According to statistics provided Tuesday by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, more than 2.98 million visitors traveled to Las Vegas in June, a decline of 6.3 percent from almost 3.2 million visitors in June 2008.

For the first sixth months of the year, 18.1 million visitors have traveled to Las Vegas, a decline of 6.8 percent from 19.5 million visitors for the same time period a year ago.

Kris Tibbs, a research analyst with the convention authority, said the decline during June was in line with the past few months.

There were 141,030 hotel rooms operating in Las Vegas during June, 3.3 percent more than a year ago. However, room rates on average are down 25.5 percent from last June and down 26.8 percent for the first six months of the year.

The occupancy rate was 82.7 percent through June, which the convention authority said is 28 percentage points higher than the national average.

"Historically, it's been the case for Las Vegas to have a much stronger occupancy than the U.S. national average," Tibbs said. "That is something we have maintained."

Other tourism indicators fell during the month.

Convention attendance was down 18.9 percent from a year ago and the number of conventions held in Las Vegas was off 15.8 percent. For the first six months of 2009, convention attendance is down 27.5 percent and the number of conventions has declined 21.6 percent.

Wall Street analysts don't expect to see a change in trends anytime soon.

Deutsche Bank gaming analyst Andrew Zarnett said the Strip will continue to be challenged, especially with the opening of the $8.5 billion CityCenter development in December, which will add 6,000 hotel rooms to the market.

Zarnett said the declines in revenue per available hotel room, a figure used by analysts to gauge cash flow, will continue to drop. He estimated the decline to be 20 percent.

"Looking ahead, we maintain our underweight stance on Las Vegas, as we believe demand should trough by year end and remain sluggish through much of 2010," Zarnett told investors, adding that he expects the economy will remain challenged.

Other tourism markets covered by the convention authority also suffered visitor declines in June. Laughlin visitation was 216,494, down 5.5 percent, while Mesquite had 93,162 visitors, a decline of 26.2 percent from a year ago.

Contact reporter Howard Stutz at hstutz@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3871.

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Copyright (c) 2009, Las Vegas Review-Journal

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