No lucky numbers for Las Vegas among '01 tourism figures

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LAS VEGAS -- Being the city with no memory has its advantages in light of what was a very forgettable year in 2001.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) has the numbers for the year, and they're not pretty. It was a rough year across the board for tourism here, as visitors, gaming revenue and hotel occupancy all declined.

"Yes, we saw dramatic declines in visitor numbers," said Terry Jacinsky, research manager for the LVCVA. "But all numbers [throughout the industry] are off, and relatively -- at the very least -- we aren't losing market share to other destinations."

How bad was 2001? The 2.3% drop in visitors marked the first time visitor numbers had declined in Las Vegas since 1982. In addition, gaming revenues in Clark County declined for the first time since the Nevada Gaming Control Board started keeping those statistics in 1970.

Jacinsky attributed the slide to the slumping U.S. economy (even before Sept. 11, the LVCVA had scaled back its visitors forecast) and the reduced demand for air travel after Sept. 11. However, he said Las Vegas already is seeing a recovery.

Although the year closed with four consecutive months of visitor declines, Jacinsky said the year-over-year visitors gap is narrowing.

September 2001 saw a 14% decrease compared with 2000, while October and November were down 8%; December, 6%; and January, 5%.

"Actually, from a trend standpoint, we're seeing early indications of a turnaround," Jacinsky said. "Las Vegas continues to be one of the few destinations that has rebounded relatively quickly from Sept. 11."

One area that remained strong for the year was the meetings and conventions sector, which saw an increase in both convention delegates and spending in 2001.

"We were off to such a strong start for the year on the meetings side that even the last four months weren't bad enough to impact those numbers," Jacinsky said.

To keep the meetings segment strong, the LVCVA launched a "convention attendance-retention campaign" aimed at prospective meetings and convention attendees. The LVCVA produced and mailed more than 1.1 million "registration reminder" postcards to potential delegates. The postcards also directed them to the LVCVA Web site, at www.vegasfreedom.com.

Meanwhile, from a gaming perspective, 2002 didn't get off to a good start on the Strip. January figures were down 23.9% for the month.

However, both the Super Bowl and the Chinese New Year were in February this year instead of January, the LVCVA pointed out.

And what's the outlook for the remainder of 2002?

Jacinsky said the LVCVA will not make forecasts for 2002 until more data is available later in the year.

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