Steep declines in air travel to Las Vegas from California, New York; gains from Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, and Detroit

July 10, 2022 7:37 PM
  • Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports
July 10, 2022 7:37 PM
  • Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports

Travel to Las Vegas from Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, and New York declined steeply in 2021 compared to 2019, while Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, and Detroit recorded gains from their pre-pandemic levels.

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According to a report released by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, Las Vegas recorded 15.8 million passengers arriving at Harry Reid International Airport in 2021, a 14.8% decline from the 18.5 million in 2019.

It’s no surprise that Los Angeles with its five airports – LAX, Burbank, John Wayne, Ontario, and Long Beach, along with Palm Springs – remained the dominant feeder market to Las Vegas with 1.16 million arriving passengers in 2021. However, that was a 25.6% decline from the 1.56 million in 2019, according to the report. The percentage of arriving passengers fell from 8.4% of the total in 2019 to 7.4% in 2021.

The decline, however, could be attributed to more people coming to Las Vegas by car. The average daily traffic on I-15 at the Nevada and California border rose 7.5% in 2021 compared to 2019. San Diego, which was the number 17 feeder market, saw a 35.3% decline in air travel from 2019.

Coming in at number two was the San Francisco Bay Area at 893,454 passengers, but that was down 41.3% from the 1.52 million in 2019. Its percentage went from 8.2% in 2019 to 5.6% in 2021. Those airports include San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose.

Any reduction in air travel from the Bay Area, however, would benefit the drive-in market to Lake Tahoe and Reno-Sparks in 2021.

When calculating by state, California was number one at 2.87 million, a 28.7% decline from 2019. Arriving passengers dropped from 21.7% of in 2019 to 18.2% in 2021. Texas retained the number two spot with 1.88 million arriving passengers, a 0.7% decline, but its percentage went from 10.2% in 2019 to 11.9% in 2021. Florida was third among states, one of the few to record a gain, while Illinois was fifth.

Chicago ranked number three with 781,820 arriving passengers, a 4% decline from the 814,775 in 2019. New York City lost its number three ranking from 2019, dropping to fifth on 2021’s list with 32.8% fewer passengers coming to Las Vegas from JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark. The 608,092 passengers in 2021 were down from 904,909 in 2019. Its percentage went from 4.9% to 3.8%. New York state saw a 45.5% decline to Las Vegas and fell from the seventh-ranked state to 13.

Dallas at number four was among cities that moved up in the rankings, with 671,340 passengers or 4.2% of the total. It was number six in 2019 with 671,163 passengers or 3.6% of the total.

Seattle came in at number six with 598,614 passengers, a 13.2% decline from 2019.

Denver was number seven with 532,904, a decline of 16.2% from 2019.

Atlanta moved up from number 10 to eight with 529,632 passengers, a 19.3% increase from 2019. Houston was number nine at 504,264, a 5.8% increase from 2019.

Detroit moved up from number 14 in 2019 to 10 in 2021 with 422,947 passengers, a 5.1% increase. That increase could likely be attributed to the opening of Circa Resorts & Casino in downtown Las Vegas, a project of Detroit native Derek Stevens.

Minneapolis just missed out on the top 10 by coming in at eleventh with 401,678 passengers, an 8.6% decline from 2019.

Among the other notable numbers from the report, Washington, D.C., like New York on the East Coast, saw a steep decline with 350,969 passengers, a drop of 30.1% from 2019. It fell from number eight in 2019 to 12 in 2021.

Miami ranked number 13 at 349,903, a 10.9% increase from 2019.

Portland at number 14 with 328,192 had a 19.2% decline from 2019.

Phoenix was number 15 at 322,995, a 14.9% decline from 2019.

Numbers 16 through 30 were Sacramento, San Diego, Austin, Orlando, Philadelphia, Salt Lake City, Honolulu, Reno, St. Louis, San Antonio, Tampa, Charlotte, Boston, Cleveland, and Kansas City.

The other cities that recorded increases in 2021 were number 16 Sacramento, up 0.8%, and number 19 Orlando, up 6.9%; number 27 Charlotte, up 13.2%; number 39 Fresno, 30.5%; number 42 El Paso, up 7.4%; number 44 Colorado Springs, up 20.9%; number 46 Memphis, up 18.5%; number 47 Boise, up 3.6%; number 48 Louisville, up 9.8%; number 51 Kahului/Maui, up 11.4%; and number 53 Hartford, up 7.1%.

On the international front, there were 389,606 arriving passengers in 2021, a 79.9% decline from 1.94 million in 2019, as restrictions on travel outside of North American remained in place until November.

Canada accounted for 30.3% of foreign arrivals in 2021, while Mexico accounted for 65.1%.

Mexico City was number one with 140,495 in 2021, a 34.5% decline from 2019. Guadalajara was number 2 with 64,934.

They were followed by Toronto, 40,958, and Calgary, 38,491. The rest of the top 10 included Monterrey,

Vancouver, Cancun, Edmonton, London Heathrow, and San Jose del Cabo.

In 2019, Toronto was the top foreign destination at 283,996.

London Heathrow had 9,307 arriving passengers in 2021, a 74.5% decline from the 168,716 in 2019 when it ranked fifth.