Las Vegas crowds expected to shrink this Thanksgiving

By Lisa Snedeker The Associated Press
Thursday November 22, 2001

LAS VEGAS — While the glittering Las Vegas Strip may not be as crowded over the four-day Thanksgiving holiday weekend as last year, those who do come are expected to spend more money, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority reports. 

“Visitors are simply spending more money on nongaming activities like entertainment, restaurants and shopping,” said Kevin Bagger, the LVCVA’s senior researcher. 

The estimated 265,000 visitors is a 2 percent decline from last year, but weekend’s nongaming economic impact is projected at $177.4 million. That’s up 12.3 percent from $158 million last year, Bagger said. 

And the city’s 125,581 hotel rooms are expected to be about 92 percent full. While that’s down 2 percent compared with last year, the city has 1.7 percent more rooms to fill now, Bagger said. 

“We have recovered, especially on weekends, compared to other destinations,” Bagger said, referring to the tourism slump that hit Las Vegas and other leisure destinations dependent on air traffic after Sept. 11. 

Passenger traffic at McCarran International Airport fell 40 percent in the week after the terrorist attacks, but has since rebounded to about 90 percent of normal, airport spokeswoman Debbie Millett said. Nearly half of Las Vegas’ visitors arrive by air. 

McCarran officials projected 90,000 arriving and departing passengers each day during the Thanksgiving holiday, traditionally the busiest travel time of the year, Millett said. 

Last year’s passenger count was around 100,000 a day. 

A number of Strip hotel-casinos including the Venetian and the Aladdin reported that they are sold out or nearly sold out Friday night. 

Bargains can be found, but some resorts are charging the same rates as last Thanksgiving. 

“Our $399 Friday night rate is comparable to last year’s rates,” said the upscale Venetian resort’s spokesman Kurt Ouchida. 

Down the street, room rates for Park Place Entertainment Corp. resorts range from $70 at the Flamingo Hilton to $339 at Caesars Palace, said spokeswoman Debbie Munch. 

“We’re experiencing strong call volume for this weekend,” she said. “We’re anticipating a strong weekend in our restaurants.” 

For those looking for reduced room rates, Munch added that the holiday season has traditionally been when the best deals can be found as the conventions wind down. 

“In general, we see a pause before the convention business restarts in January,” she said. “But there are some attractive rates this year compared to last year as we continue to work through this period of travel industry recovery.” 

For example, on Tuesday MGM Mirage’s upscale Bellagio was quoting a weekend night rate of $259, well below the $399 the resort has charged for past holiday weekends. Rooms could be had at MGM Grand for $119 and Mirage for $129, unusually low rates for a Saturday night.