International visitation to Las Vegas jumps 39% in 2023

February 24, 2024 6:22 PM
Photo: Shutterstock
  • Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports
February 24, 2024 6:22 PM
  • Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports
  • Canada
  • Australia
  • China
  • Germany
  • Ireland
  • Japan
  • Mexico
  • United Kingdom

International visitation to Las Vegas jumped by 39% last year, led by a boost from Canadians and travel from the UK, Germany, and Australia.

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The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority released preliminary estimates that showed the city attracted 4.74 million foreign visitors in 2023, 11.6% of the city’s 40.8 million visitors last year. By comparison, the 3.4 million foreign visitors in 2022 comprised 8.7% of the 38.8 million international visitors, up from 4% in 2021. The most recent high was 13.3% of the total in 2019.

Overall in 2023, Harry Reid International Airport served 57.6 million travelers and beat the previous record of 52.6 million set in 2022. That’s a 9.5% increase.

Visitation from foreign countries is one of the last areas of the Las Vegas tourism market yet to return to pre-pandemic numbers. That’s especially true for travel from outside North America and its 45.8% increase year over year.

Last year’s visitation is 16.3% or 920,000 below pre-pandemic levels the 5.6 million international arrivals in 2019 pre-pandemic. The high was recorded in 2014 at 5.98 million foreign visitors.

In 2023, Canada regained its pre-COVID lead as the number-one foreign destination. Las Vegas welcomed 1.41 Canadians in 2023, a 60% increase over 885,610 in 2022 and nearly matching its total in 2019, off by 4.1%. I 2021, only 155,080 Canadians came through.

Mexico took Canada’s place at number one from 2020 through 2022; Canada had more COVID travel restrictions in place. In 2023, 1.08 million visitors from Mexico arrived, a 9.6% increase over 2022 and only 3.1% below 2019’s total.

Overall, the 2.5 million visitors from Canada and Mexico in 2023 comprised 52.8% of international travelers. They accounted for 46% of the total in 2019, showing more room for growth from overseas travel.

Outside of North America, a continued rebound from overseas travel was led by the United Kingdom, historically Las Vegas’s third leading foreign market. The 551,550 UK visitors in 2023 were 14.3% higher than 2022’s 482,380. UK travel is still 25.6% below 2019’s 741,000 visitors.

Las Vegas continues to be a popular destination for Australians; the 264,900 visitors from Down Under in 2023 were a 74.2% increase from 2022’s 152,030. Visitation was off 26% from the 358,000 Aussies in 2019.

Germany was fifth with 182,450, a 46% increase over the 125,040 in 2022. There were 224,000 visitors in 2019, with 2023 visitation off 18.5%.

South Korea was sixth with 157,760 visitors in 2023, a 58% increase over the 99,840 in 2022. The 2023 visitation was off 21.9% from the 202,000 in 2019.

Brazil had 123,370, a 26.8 increase over 2022. It had 156,000 in 2019.

Japan had 108,020 visitors in 2023, a 223% increase over the 33,400 in 2022. Japan had 243,000 visitors in 2019, 55.5% below pre-pandemic levels.

France brought 80,770 visitors to Las Vegas in 2023, a 46.2% increase over the 55,250 in 2022. There were 99,600 in 2019.

China recorded the biggest gain in foreign visitors with a jump of 573% to 71,640, up from 10,640 in 2022. There were 205,000 in 2019.

Ireland had 52,760 in 2023, up 11.5% from 47,320 in 2022.

India had 50,090 in 2023, a 70% increase over 2022. India is the only market with an increase over 2019, a 1.4% gain.

The Netherlands had 48,120 visitors in 2023, a 25.2% increase.

Switzerland had 37,560, a 54.6% increase.

Spain had 34,710, a 3% increase.

Italy had 34,100, a 41.5% increase.

The Philippines had 31,770, a 52% increase.

Taiwan had 26,790, a 122% increase.

Argentina had 26,520, a 34.6% increase.

Sweden had 19,060, an 86.3% increase.

Belgium had 18,620, a 32.9% increase.

Denmark had 13,900, a 26.5% increase.

Israel had 13,460, a 28.7% increase.

Austria had 11,130, a 49.4% increase.

Singapore had 10,820, a 55.2% increase.

Turkey had 10,680, a 93.5% increase.

Norway had 8,960, a 75.3% increase.

Joel Van Over, senior director of Ailevon Pacific Aviation Consulting, the LVCVA’s air service consultant, told the LVCVA board of directors that November and December aren’t the strongest months for air service to Las Vegas and events such as the Formula One race in November, National Finals Rodeo in December, and CES in January built momentum for the marketplace from an air- traffic perspective heading into 2024.

“There’s more momentum in the winter,” Van Over said. “I know it culminated with the Super Bowl and that was quite a spectacle. A lot can be said about what Las Vegas has done to fill hotel rooms and that helps our airline partners. It couldn’t have been better this last five months.”

Attendance at CES, which draws visitors from around the world, reached 135,000 this year, 40% from international locations.

“A lot of international guests came to town for CES,” Van Over said. “Airlines added 45 flights. We got a lot of indications from airlines that they don’t think it’s enough and there’s more to come next year. CES continues to grow. It was huge in 2019 before COVID. It’s back and roaring. The international component is huge and the airlines take notice.”

Van Over said it’s never been easier to fly to Las Vegas than it is now and from new locations. Harry Reid had 3.4 million more seats than in 2022, about 9,300 seats on a daily basis that helps support events like F1, Super Bowl, and CES, he noted. “When you’re connected to a lot of places and a lot of seats, that pays dividends on the number of people that pass through.”

According to Van Over, Las Vegas is setting airport-passenger and other records, while Los Angeles and San Francisco have yet to recover from 2019 levels, Van Over said. The TSA screens more passengers in only five airports. Las Vegas has the eighth most aircraft movements in the nation and seventh most seats coming and going.

Some 34 new markets were announced or inaugurated in 2023 by nine airlines and 23 were previously unserved. Sixteen of the new markets were international: 11 in Canada, two in the UK, two in Mexico, and one in El Salvador.

“This is really important to the destination. International guests spend more, stay longer, and fill midweek rooms,” Van Over said. “We fully recovered domestic capacity in the summer of 2022 and we haven’t gotten there yet internationally. We dedicated the entire 2023 to focusing on international (travel).”

Harry Reid has increased seat capacity from Canada by 6% versus pre-COVID capacity. Mexico is up 1%, while Latin America is up 8%. In Europe, wintertime service from Germany has been expanded. The UK, however, has recovered only 71% of capacity levels, due to the dissolution of Thomas Cook Airlines, Van Over said. “We have some work to do to recover that capacity, but that number will go up in 2024.”

Overall, international airline capacity has recovered 102% from 2019, Van Over said. A year ago, Las Vegas was in the 80% range. Among the additions, KLM service from Amsterdam didn’t exist in 2019.

Van Over emphasized the importance of bringing back more visitors from Asia.

“Korean Air is really important in bringing consumers from all over. They have a great connecting complex in Seoul. They’ll bring the Koreans, Chinese, and Japanese into town and it’s great to see them recover as well.”

Cheryl Smith, director of Air Service Development at the LVCVA, said Las Vegas had an “outstanding year” and that success will continue into 2024. She cited service resuming from Manchester in the UK via Virgin Atlantic on June 2. That will mean 397 seats three times a week.

“It’s a lot easier to get here from most parts of the world than it ever has been before and we’re very excited to be a part of that,” Smith said.

LVCVA CEO Steve Hill said that from an international standpoint, they’re intent on adding capacity and connecting to different parts of the world. Tourism officials and race backers brought the Las Vegas Grand Prix to the Strip to help market the destination to a global audience.

Scottish native Oliver Lovat, CEO of the Denstone Group, told CDC Gaming Reports that he’s been tracking the international visitation numbers and is impressed with their growth in 2023; he expects they’ll return to normal in 2024. Like Van Over, Lovat noted that visitors from abroad stay longer and spend more money.

“There’s certainly growth to come in the international market,” Lovat said. “Some of the high-profile events, such as Formula 1 and the opening of Sphere, especially with U2 as an international artist playing there, have certainly brought in international visitation. You also have Kylie Minogue at The Venetian and Adele at Caesars Palace.”

Because international visitors plan their trips over a longer time frame, rather than make ad hoc trips, they haven’t returned in pre-pandemic numbers, Lovat said. In addition, international carriers have taken longer to get their routes back and as that number grows, visitation grows, which is why he expects a strong summer. Economic conditions have also held down foreign visitors, despite the elimination of COVID restrictions, which continue to be a headwind to overcome.

“Economically, the U.S. is doing a lot better than the rest of the world,” Lovat said. “The dollar is quite strong and Las Vegas is relatively more expensive than it used to be from a currency point of view, never mind everything else.”