Oil price increases spur concerns about Las Vegas tourism

Crude oil prices hit their 32-month high of $127.02 a barrel today and then fell 2 percent amid concerns that demand will decline, with the average retail price for gasoline nearing $4 a gallon.

The continued political unrest throughout much of the Middle East and skittishness on the oil futures market have driven much of the increase, which Las Vegas Valley travel and tourism industry officials fear could slow the projected year-over-year improvement to the region's travel, lodging and gambling numbers.

Visitor volume was up 8.6 percent in January when compared to January 2010, with a 36.9 percent boost in the Strip convention business, according to the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. Travel through McCarran International Airport was up 5 percent for the period.

An estimated 38.3 million people are expected to visit Southern Nevada this year amid heavy discounting for hotel rooms. That would be the highest total since a record 39.2 million came here in 2007.

LVCVA officials and market analyst Jeremy Aguero of Applied Analysis note that despite the market's flirtation with an average price of $4-a-gallon for gasoline, tourists will continue to come here, often doubling- and tripling-up to save money.

February's numbers showed a 1 percent increase in year-to-year visitation as average daily auto traffic declined 2.1 percent on all major highways leading into Southern Nevada. Meantime, passenger travel at McCarran International Airport was up 2.4 percent for the month.

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