The Las Vegas tourism economy lost $34 billion in 2020 because of the pandemic, according to a new report commissioned by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
With fewer visitors and less overall visitor spending in Las Vegas, the total economic output related to tourism fell from $63.6 billion in 2019 to $29.6 billion in 2020.
The report by Las Vegas-based Applied Analysis considered direct, indirect and induced sources. What visitors directly spend on rooms, dining, shopping, local transportation and other activities supports suppliers and vendors (indirect impacts) and employee spending on goods and services in the community (induced impacts).
"The Covid-19 pandemic left an indelible imprint on the southern Nevada tourism industry and the broader regional economy," the report's executive summary begins. "Compared to recent recessions, the Covid-19 recession's magnitude was unprecedented in its depth and speed."
Other numbers from the report that weren't unexpected but gloomy nonetheless:
• Travel restrictions, resort closings and other pandemic-related responses led to a 55% drop in southern Nevada visitor volume to 19 million, the lowest annual total since 1989.
• Visitor spending fell from $36.9 billion in 2019 to $17.6 billion in 2020, a 52.2% decline.
• Convention attendance fell to its lowest level in 21 years. The 1.7 million convention attendees in 2020 (primarily only from January to mid-March) marked a 74% drop from the record of 6.6 million set in 2019.
• About 125,600 jobs were lost to the shutdown, resulting in a $3.3 billion drop in wages for hospitality workers and another $2.1 billion for nontourism-industry employees.
• Since the region is so dependent on tourism, unemployment in the region spiked to 33.3% in April 2020 and averaged a record 14.7% throughout the year.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 9.6% of the Las Vegas workforce remained unemployed in June 2021, the highest percentage among the country's largest metropolitan areas.
"We dropped harder, but we're recovering quicker," Brian Gordon, a principal at Applied Analysis, said in an interview with KNPR radio's "State of Nevada."
The pandemic has caused a steeper economic downturn than 9/11 and the Great Recession, but drive-in traffic volumes from California are at or above pre-pandemic levels.
Until convention business and international travel rebounds, though, the region's recovery has a long a way to go, Gordon said. Those traveling for conventions, trade shows and meetings bring midweek stability to room rates and occupancy and contribute mightily to restaurants, retail and entertainment sales, he noted.
"They are a key component of the equation, and they tend to spend more," Gordon said. "Folks that come into Las Vegas for convention and trade shows -- their spend profile reflects a premium relative to your typical leisure traveler."
He said convention bookings appear strong for the rest of 2021 and into 2022, but international travel, of course, is subject to continuing restrictions because of Covid-19.
Gordon said he expects many of the pandemic-related changes implemented in Las Vegas resorts, such as check-in kiosks, cashless concessions and mobile room keys, will remain because they lower costs, increase efficiency and limit person-to-person encounters.