Las Vegas tourism reeling from mass shooting

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The Oct. 1 mass shooting just off the Las Vegas Strip has dealt a substantial blow to air bookings, according to travel data analytics company ForwardKeys.

In the eight weeks before a gunman killed 58 people and injured 546 from the window of his 32nd floor room in the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, air bookings for Las Vegas were already down 7% for domestic flights and 2% for international flights on a year-over-year basis.

But in the three weeks that followed the shooting, bookings plunged much further, with domestic bookings down 21% and international bookings down 16%, according to ForwardKeys. 

"Looking at the current situation, one can only feel sympathy," said ForwardKeys CEO Olivier Jager. "What has happened to the victims of the shooting is absolutely shocking and tragic. One also feels sorry for all those people who work in Las Vegas too. They are dedicated to showing visitors a good time, and it must be very hard to keep doing that in such awful circumstances."

Las Vegas flight bookings plunged in major markets around the world and throughout the U.S. in the weeks after the shooting. From New York, for example, bookings were down 29%, compared to a 3% decrease in the weeks before the massacre. From the Asia-Pacific region, bookings were down 10% after the shooting; they were up 10% before the massacre.

The coming months could be tough for Las Vegas tourism. From Nov. 1 through April 30, Las Vegas air bookings are down 14% year over year; bookings were already down 10% before the massacre. Bookings have slowed in every source market, ForwardKeys said, except for Brazil and Australia.

"It is not a certainty that the market will stay down," Jager said. "If the U.S. economy picks up, if there are no more similar incidents and if there is a brilliant promotional campaign by Las Vegas, it is possible that the situation can be turned around."

In Southwest Airlines' third-quarter earnings report on Oct. 26, CEO Gary Kelly said Las Vegas demand had not yet recovered, but that he "would be surprised if we were not back to 100%" by the end of the fourth quarter, if not before.

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