Visitor Profile Study provides snapshot of city as it was pre-Covid

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Fireworks explode above the Las Vegas Strip on Jan. 1.
Fireworks explode above the Las Vegas Strip on Jan. 1. Photo Credit: Mark Damon/Las Vegas News Bureau
Paul Szydelko
Paul Szydelko

It was seemingly ancient history as soon as the save and print buttons were pushed, but the 2019 Las Vegas Visitor Profile Study is still a useful benchmark.

The travel and tourism industries can use the plethora of data available in the survey, presented annually by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority since 1975, to understand what figures to be the last normal year for southern Nevada for a while.

"It's odd to be talking about something that feels like it was years ago when it was just a few months ago," said Kevin Bagger, vice president of the LVCVA's Research Center.

GLS Research conducted the 2019 Las Vegas Visitor Profile Study for the LVCVA, interviewing about 300 adult visitors each month last year.

"2019 was a really strong year for Las Vegas," Bagger said. "We had strong visitation, we had high revenue numbers, high occupancy numbers, high [average daily rate] numbers. We were going into 2020 very positive with a lot of investment, a lot of construction, a lot of things going on."

The generational mix of visitors to Las Vegas is consistent and impressive, Bagger said. It's about one-third each of millennials, Gen X and baby boomers.

"That highlights the continued broad appeal of Las Vegas across age demographics," Bagger said. "All of those segments are able to find that experience that they were looking for."

About 56% of visitors in 2019 planned their trip to Las Vegas more than one month in advance, down from 64% in 2018. About 33% planned their trip from one week to one month in advance, up from 24% in 2017 and 30% in 2018. Nearly one-quarter (23%) of visitors planned their trip more than 90 days in advance, down from 27% in 2018. International travelers, who dominated the last category of longer-term planners, of course have been nonexistent since mid-March because of the pandemic.

As for the current situation in the city, a little more than a million people visited Las Vegas in June following the staggered reopening of resorts, down 70.5% from June 2019, according to the latest LVCVA statistics. Total occupancy averaged 40.9%, with weekend occupancy hovering at 51.8% and midweek occupancy at 36.5%. Average daily rates among open properties reached $104.07 (down 13.6%) while RevPAR was $42.56, down 61.5% compared with June 2019.

Bagger said he is encouraged by air passenger traffic numbers since June at McCarran Airport. "In that component, Las Vegas is actually ahead of the curve in what is obviously a much lower volume nationally."

He also noted that traffic on Interstate 15 from Southern California is generally down 15% to 20% from 2019 but on some days, such as the Fourth of July weekend, matches last year's numbers.

"So there is demand occurring for Las Vegas from both the drive and the air market," Bagger said. "Hotels are very emphatic about the safety protocols that have been mandated. With those in place and with the capacity restraints that the properties are imposing on themselves, they want to make sure the visitors have a good experience. They're very cautious about the level of volume that they are bringing into the properties."

While resort employees were required to wear masks since reopening on June 4, Nevada did not impose the requirement on guests until June 26. Bagger said the LVCVA's latest surveys show that visitors who are aware of the mandate feel better about visiting.

"The good thing that we learned from that research is that being aware that the mask mandates are in place actually increases comfort level and interest in visiting among the vast majority of our potential visitors," Bagger said.

The pandemic has created a frustrating reality, Bagger said, but "things are changing daily. They continue to be very fluid."

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