Strong convention business and March Madness boost Las Vegas visitation to pre-pandemic territory

April 25, 2023 3:39 PM
Photo: Shutterstock
  • Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports
April 25, 2023 3:39 PM
  • Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports

Visitation to Las Vegas in March, aided by March Madness and a strong convention business, nearly matched pre-pandemic numbers.

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The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority reported 3.65 million visitors in March, a 9.6% increase over March 2022 but only 1.1% below the 3.69 million visitors in March 2019.

Conventions contributed greatly to the growing visitation numbers that show no sign of slowing. There were 771,000 convention attendees in March, a 56% increase over the 494,200 in March 2022 and 30.6% higher than the 552,200 in March 2019 before the pandemic.

The construction industry trade show, ConExpo-Con/Agg, held at the Las Vegas Convention Center March 14-18, was a big reason why. The once-every-three-years show drew an estimated 139,000 conventioneers.

Harry Reid International Airport reported 4.93 million passengers in March – 15.6% higher than the 4.27 million in March 2022 – and the second highest month in history behind the 5.18 million in October 2022. The March passenger totals were 12.1% higher than the 4.4 million in March 2019 before the pandemic.

Through the first quarter of 2023, passenger volume is up 25% over the same period of 2022. The airport has nonstop service to 15 more domestic markets than it did in 2019. International travel was higher, too, reaching 252,670 passengers, up from 202,998 in February, but still below the 305,352 in March 2019.

In addition to local residents during spring break, the airport served travelers arriving for special events such as college conference basketball tournaments, the first weekend of the NCAA basketball tournament, the second round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, UFC 285 and NASCAR returned to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway March 3-5, Taylor Swift, Keith Urban, Jimmy Buffet, Stevie Nicks, John Cougar Mellencamp and Maroon 5 all had concerts.

Aided by a strong performance on the Strip, overall hotel occupancy exceeded 88% for the month, 7.7% higher year-over-year. Weekend occupancy reached 94.5% for the month, up 2.4% year-over-year, while conventions helped propel midweek occupancy to 85.8%, up 9.2% year-over-year. Weekend occupancy was 97.1% in March 2019 while midweek occupancy was 88.9%. Strip occupancy in March was 90.5%, just below the 92.9% in March 2019. Downtown occupancy was 76.4% – higher than the 69.1% in March 2022 – but below the 88.1% in March 2019.

The overall average daily room rate exceeded $213, breaking the record from October 2022 of $208 and surpassing March 2022 and March 2019 by 30.7% and 59.2%, respectively. Revenue per available room also broke records, reaching $188, up 43.2% year-over-year and up 53.6% over March 2019.

The average daily room rate on the Strip was $228.46, a 58.8% increase from $143.83 in March 2019. The average daily room rate in downtown was $122.33 in March, up 63% from $74.94 in March 2019.

Highway traffic coming to Las Vegas from neighboring states had a strong March. There was 131,104 average daily traffic on all highways, 8.8% higher than March 2019. On the I-15 from California, higher gas prices appear to have slowed its numbers. There were 42,256 cars a day at the California border in March, down 1.3% from March 2022.

In Laughlin, visitor volume in March was 116,800, some 200 more than March 2022 but 32.7% below the 173,500 in March 2019. Room occupancy was 54.5%. Mesquite saw a visitor volume of 90,000 in March, which is the same as March 2022. It was 133,100 in March 2019. Room occupancy was 90.2%.