Las Vegas visitors spend even more - Tuesday 12th of April 2005

A new visitor study demonstrates something retailers like Andy Vecchio have known for months -- travelers came to Las Vegas in record numbers last year, and they typically spent much more money than they did in 2003.

"Visitor sales were up substantially," Vecchio, the vice president and store manager of the Macy's department store at Fashion Show mall, said Wednesday about 2004 sales. "We experienced strong increases in convention-driven business, particularly spouse shopping programs. ... In Las Vegas, shopping is becoming a major form of entertainment for many visitors."

Such largess wasn't limited to retailers. From cabs and limousines to box office windows, casinos and caf s, visitors were far more inclined to open their wallet or purse here in 2004, a visitor profile study released this week by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority shows.

Last year's nearly 37.4 million visitors spent an average of $124.39 per trip on shopping-related purchases, up nearly 28 percent from the prior year. Take away the four in 10 who said they spent nothing in local stores and that average jumps to more than $196 per trip, an increase of nearly 24 percent.

Visitors who dined out or imbibed in local bars or nightclubs said they spent, on average, $238.78 per trip last year, up 13 percent.

"Last year, from Day One, it was nonstop," said Larry Close, general manager of The Palm Restaurant in the Forum Shops at Caesars. "It was the first time that every month was unbelievably busy."

Thanks to an abundance of corporate-funded catered events and big-spending large groups, Close said, last year's sales at The Palm were up 18 percent, or about $1 million, better than in 2003. So far this year, things seem slow in comparison to 2004's banner returns, he added.

"Last year was great, but can you keep that pace?" Close asked.

Despite Las Vegas' increasing reliance on nongaming attractions, 87 percent of visitors said they gambled here last year. On average, those visitors budgeted $544.93 per trip for gaming entertainment, up 11 percent from 2003.

Nearly half of all gamblers -- or 49 percent -- said they spent less than two hours per day playing in the casino. And 67 percent of all visitors said gaming's widespread presence around the world made no difference on whether they would visit Las Vegas again.

More than eight in 10 visitors took in some form of entertainment while here last year, with lounge acts easily the most-popular attraction (89 percent), followed by production shows (46 percent, down from 51 percent in 2003) and big name entertainers (4 percent).

Those who attended shows spent an average of nearly $97 per trip, up 9 percent.

Nonpackage hotel room rates averaged $86.22 per night, up 5 percent.

Those who used local transportation services spent $90.61 per trip, a 14-percent gain.

Demographic information shows 80 percent of last year's visitors were white; 73 percent were married; 42 percent were between 40 and 59 years of age; and men (52 percent) slightly outnumbered women. Those averages were largely unchanged from 2003's survey.

The annual study was prepared by GLS Research, a San Francisco-based polling firm regularly hired by the authority. Its workers conducted approximately 275 in-person interviews each month last year, primarily inside or near Las Vegas hotel-casinos and motels. Interview locations and times were varied to ensure a diverse response.

Responses were limited to those age 21 and up who live outside Clark County. To ensure they had an opportunity to experience the city before their reviews, only visitors who planned to leave the city within 24 hours were asked to complete the questionnaire.

The margin of error for the 3,330 respondent sample is plus or minus 1.7 percent at the 95 percent level, which means if the survey were repeated exactly as it was originally conducted, responses would be within 1.7 percent of the original results 95 percent of the time.

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