Tourists expected to spend more this 4th of July

Fourth of July crowds pack the pedestrian bridge outside the Bellagio on the Las Vegas Strip in 2009.

VEGAS INC coverage

The Fourth of July is once again expected to lure visitors in big numbers to the Las Vegas Valley, but for one of the first times since the recession, they’re expected to spend more this holiday weekend.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is expecting 292,000 visitors for the Fourth of July weekend, up 3.2 percent from 283,000 last year. They are expected to spend an estimated $179 million while they’re here — not including gambling — an increase of 3.4 percent from $173 million in 2010.

Despite the addition of Cosmopolitan’s 2,995 rooms since last year, hotel occupancy is also up. Citywide occupancy is expected to reach 92 percent over the weekend, up from 89.4 percent, according to the authority.

The city ranks high on several travel websites’ lists of top destinations for the holiday weekend. Las Vegas is No. 8 on Priceline’s annual Top 50 Fourth of July travel destinations list and ranks fourth on the Travelocity and Orbitz holiday travel indexes. Marita Hudson-Thomas, a spokeswoman for Orbitz, said Fourth of July travelers seem to be drawn to where the big fireworks displays are this year, including destinations such as New York, Boston and Las Vegas.

What also might be attracting travelers to Las Vegas are low room rates. The city is offering the best deals on hotels on a list of the Top 10 destinations for Fourth of July weekend on Orbitz.com. According to bookings made as of June 12 on the website for travel from July 1 to July 5, average daily room rates are down 24 percent to $95 from $118 a year ago.

“Places like Las Vegas and Orlando, Fla., have lots of inventory available. It’s always the heads in beds mentality. You’d rather have a lower rate to have someone in that room, so you will see that in places that have lots of inventory,” Hudson-Thomas said. “It’s a consumer’s market right now.”

The average daily room rate based on bookings on VEGAS.com, a sister company of the Las Vegas Sun, is $128 for the weekend versus $114 for the same period in 2010.

The rates of the two websites differ because of booking windows and deals specific to the sites. The average booking window on VEGAS.com is 40 days in advance, Vice President of Marketing Dan Hippler said.

Last-minute room rates for the weekend on VEGAS.com range from $52 to $352. Rooms on the Strip include prices like $229 at Planet Hollywood, $275 at Cosmopolitan, $167 at Luxor and $224 at MGM Grand, which is hosting UFC 132 Saturday night.

Airfare to Las Vegas also dropped for the holiday weekend, according to Orbitz. Ticket prices fell 9 percent from $362 in 2010 to $332 in 2011. Aside from Boston and Las Vegas, airfare increased in Orbitz’s remaining top eight destinations for the holiday.

“We expected that airfares would go up this summer because of rising fuel prices. For Las Vegas, the city has a lot of lift around the holiday weekends so prices are always competitive,” Hudson-Thomas said.

But some are driving to their destinations this holiday, despite gas prices.

The Southern California branch of AAA, which includes tourists traveling to Las Vegas, expects 2.9 million residents to travel 50 miles or more this weekend. Seventy-nine percent of those travelers, or 2.29 million, will drive to their destination, a 2.9 percent drop from 2010. AAA Southern California estimates air travelers will total 337,000, a 1.7 percent increase from last year.

The AAA Mountain West division, which includes Nevada, also expects 2.9 million residents to travel this holiday weekend. AAA projects that more than 2.4 million Mountain West residents will drive to their holiday destinations, a 2.7 decrease from 2010. Air travel, on the other hand, is expected to increase nearly 10 percent.

Nationally, AAA forecasts more than 39 million people will travel during the holiday weekend, representing a 2.5 percent decrease compared with last year. The auto and travel club attributed the drop to high fuel prices, unemployment concerns and the overall economy.

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  1. Las Vegas is a tourist attraction in itself... the more visitors it has, the faster the local economy will get better. Las Vegas needs to rethink and more out of the box solutions to start bringing the crowd back.

    What ever happened to the cheap eats? higher costs and quality demands have driven those out but that is what people liked....

    Hotels are killing the cash cow by asking for more but now are getting less because higher prices are breaking the backs of the small players... its not fun any more.