As Las Vegas’ McCarran Airport welcomed the first transatlantic visitors in 20 months this week, a new report predicts that visitation next year will be close to pre-pandemic levels. In 2023, they could well surpass them, the report suggests.
The analysis, from the University of Nevada Las Vegas Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER), speculates that the “significant rebounds” of 2021 will be followed by smaller increases in 2022 and 2023.
The report posits that 2023 could be healthier than 2019 because of new attractions that did not exist two years ago, such as the Allegiant Stadium. That’s barring the emergence of a highly contagious new variant with the ability to evade vaccines.
International Travelers Spend More
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) has pinned visitation for 2021 to September at 22.7 million. That’s 28.7 percent lower than it was for the corresponding period in 2019.
But the city should finish the year strongly with a 66 percent gain in visitor numbers over 2020 when casinos were either closed or operating at restricted capacity for large parts of the year.
The final quarter will benefit from the resumption of international flights, as well as the return of convention business to the city which began in the fall.
International visitors make up around 15 percent of Las Vegas’ overall visitation. But they spend 50 to 60 percent more money than domestic travelers, according to the LVCVA. And they stay longer.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that the LVCVA was on hand at McCarran airport on Monday with a chorus of showgirls to greet the first transatlantic flight since March 2020.
That’s when then-US President Donald Trump imposed travel restrictions to limit the spread of the coronavirus on non-US citizens from over 30 countries. These included the EU states, the UK, China, India, South Africa, Iran, and Brazil.
Under the new rules, foreign visitors must show proof of vaccination before flying and must test negative for COVID-19 within three days of traveling.
The first inbound flight to Las Vegas on Monday arrived from London Heathrow. Many were visiting family members from whom they had been separated for almost two years, according to several local news reports. Others were in town to attend the IMEX America trade show that begins Tuesday at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center.
UK residents are the third most frequent foreign visitors to Las Vegas, after those of Canada and Mexico.
New Normal: More Normal than Old New Normal
The easing of restrictions represents another step towards normality for Las Vegas and its rebounding tourism industry. And “normality” may also mean a slight dip in gaming revenues for casinos, which have this year witnessed the beneficial impact of pent-up demand.
Gaming revenue has been achieving record highs, even though visitor volume hasn’t been as [strong],” UNLV economics professor Stephen Miller, author of the CBER report, told CDC Gaming Reports Tuesday.
“People have been gambling more. That gambling spend per visitor has gone crazy during the pandemic. It’s fallen back down, but still higher than it was before the pandemic. If anything, it might go down a bit,” he added.
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