MGM Resorts saw its strongest gross bookings in Las Vegas in January since the start of the pandemic, with travelers increasingly willing to book 90-plus days out.
"As the burden of our healthcare system eases, and gathering and travel restrictions are being lifted, and assuming that most of the population is willing to resume normal activity, which we certainly saw glimpses of last summer, we believe the demand for travel and visitation in Las Vegas could be robust later in the year," CEO Bill Hornbuckle told investors during the company's fourth-quarter earnings call on Wednesday.
MGM's Las Vegas casino and hotel portfolio includes the Bellagio, New York-New York, Aria, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, Delano Las Vegas, Park MGM, NoMad Las Vegas, the Mirage, Luxor and Excalibur properties.
The recent boom in booking activity follows a slow winter in Vegas. Although Hornbuckle estimated that MGM's Las Vegas occupancies started out "relatively strong" in October, hovering at about 46%, they plummeted in subsequent months due to "public health concerns," with Vegas occupancies for the quarter finishing at around 38%.
Midweek occupancies for the fourth quarter were particularly low, coming in at just 31%, which prompted MGM Resorts to temporarily close its hotel towers at Mandalay Bay and Park MGM and fully shutter the Mirage during the midweek period.
Hornbuckle predicted that midweek business will continue to be "challenged" through the first quarter of this year, though he said he hoped to see green shoots on the midweek front by March.
Corey Sanders, MGM Resorts' COO, agreed, telling investors that based on current booking pace, the company expects to have the Mandalay Bay, Park MGM and Mirage fully back up and running Monday-to-Friday beginning in March.
"We are optimistic [about] what we see on our books in the third and fourth quarter," said Sanders. "And [for the] fourth quarter, we actually have more rooms on the books than we did same time last year. So, we're pretty optimistic on what we see in the future."
For the fourth quarter, MGM's Las Vegas Strip revenue totaled $480 million, down 66% from the same quarter in 2019.
Looking beyond Vegas, MGM's regional U.S. business, which includes casino hotels in markets like Massachusetts, Maryland and Michigan, among others, "performed exceptionally well," according to Hornbuckle. The group's regional arm reported revenue of $595 million, which represented a 34% decline on the fourth quarter of 2019.
Meanwhile, the group's MGM China arm, which includes properties like the MGM Macau and MGM Cotai, saw revenue for the quarter dip 58% from the same period in 2019, to $305 million.
Companywide, MGM Resorts reported a fourth-quarter revenue decline of 53%, to approximately $1.5 billion.