A year of great progress in Las Vegas

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Las Vegas welcomed 32.2 million travelers in 2021, a big jump from the previous year but still about 24% less than pre-pandemic levels.
Las Vegas welcomed 32.2 million travelers in 2021, a big jump from the previous year but still about 24% less than pre-pandemic levels. Photo Credit: LVCVA
Paul Szydelko
Paul Szydelko

Visitation to Las Vegas was predictably better in 2021 than the previous year, but it still has a long way to go before it's again approaching pre-pandemic figures.

More than 32.2 million visited southern Nevada in 2021, easily topping 2020's 19 million but still 24% fewer than the record 42.5 million visitors in 2019, according to year-end numbers released by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

There were an estimated 2.2 million convention attendees, almost 67% below the 2019 figure of more than 6.6 million.

The numbers, however, were encouraging signs of the destination's flexibility and resiliency, according to the LVCVA.

• Related: Mask mandate is lifted in Las Vegas

"Relentless real-time flexibility and long-term vision worked together to propel Las Vegas tourism in 2021," said Kevin Bagger, vice president of the LVCVA's research center. "Throughout the year, we and our resort partners were regularly sharing market data and insights to steer our separate and combined efforts as we assessed demand, air capacity and visitor feedback while monitoring local, national and international Covid trends and evolving health protocols."

Hotel occupancy for 2021 approached 67%, well below the 88.9% achieved in 2019. Weekend hotel occupancy was 81.3% and exceeded 87% in seven of the 12 months. With convention business still slow, especially in the first six months, midweek annual occupancy was just 60.5% (down from 86.3% in 2019).

Average daily hotel room rates for 2021 topped $137.62, which surpassed the 2019 average of $132.62.

"Las Vegas has historically proven relatively resilient, but that resilience is not by accident," Bagger said. "It is driven by active, ceaseless attention, effort and investment to protect and propel the tourism sector that drives our local economy."

Big investments in 2021

Significant infrastructure investment included Allegiant Stadium, which welcomed football fans and concertgoers for the first time in 2021, and the opening of the West Hall expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Since June, the convention center has hosted 52 trade shows and events with more than 700,000 attendees. That included World of Concrete in June, the first major tradeshow to convene in the U.S. since the start of the pandemic, and SEMA, an automotive industry trade show that attracted more than 100,000.

Circa Resort & Casino downtown accepted its first guests in December 2020, Virgin Hotels Las Vegas (formerly the Hard Rock) opened in March, and Resorts World Las Vegas opened in June.

Some eye-opening numbers

Other eye-opening year-end numbers:

• Clark County, which includes the Strip, reported gaming revenues of more than $11.4 billion for the year, which included hitting at least $1 billion in gaming revenues in six of the 12 months. Before last year, October 2007 was the only time Clark County recorded $1 billion in gaming revenues in a single month.

• Downtown Las Vegas, with Circa's new presence, topped $842.2 million gaming revenues in 2021, a single-year record.

• Nevada's sports books collected a record $455.1 million in revenues on a record $8.1 billion in wagers, toppling 2018's records of $329.1 million in revenues and $5.3 billion in wagers.

• Related: Mirage deal makes 'perfect sense' for Hard Rock

• Harry Reid Airport (formerly McCarran) handled 39.7 million passengers in 2021, an increase of about 17 million from 2020. However, that's still about 23% below 2019's pre-pandemic number of 51.5 million.

• Domestic passenger travel was almost 38.2 million in 2021, just 18% below the 2019 record of 46.6 million; there were more than 757,000 international passengers, 80% below 2019's 3.8 million international travelers.

International travel, beyond cities in Canada and Mexico, rose in November when the White House lifted several travel bans.

"This past year reinforced that the demand for Las Vegas remains strong, and we are so grateful for all those who made us their destination of choice," Clark County director of aviation Rosemary Vassiliadis said.

She added that additional international routes are expected to return throughout 2022.

"From stadium concerts to high-stakes sporting events, 2021 was a dress rehearsal for what [Reid Airport] and the community can expect as Las Vegas solidifies its position as the premier entertainment destination," she said.

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