LAS VEGAS — One of the busiest holiday weekends on the Las Vegas Strip could get an extra boost this year thanks to Chinese New Year and Valentine’s Day, tourism officials say.
“President’s Day weekend is typically one of the strongest holiday weekends in Las Vegas,” said Kevin Bagger, senior researcher for the Las Vegas Visitors and Convention Authority.
The authority predicts an estimated 278,000 visitors will come this weekend to gamble, eat and shop — comparable to the 2001 holiday.
“Having all those dates — Chinese New Year’s, Valentine’s Day and President’s Day — close together makes for a good week in Las Vegas,” said Rob Powers, authority spokesman. Chinese New Year began Tuesday.
The steady year-over-year number is good news for the tourism-dependent city that saw a dramatic drop in visitation after Sept. 11, in part because of a drop in commercial airline travel and a weak economy.
“If we end up attracting the same number as last year, we’d be happy with that,” Powers said. “We’re still in a recession, so if we can say we’re looking for the same size crowd in town as we were a year ago, that would be a very good sign.”
Hotel room occupancy is expected to be down about 2 percent to 96 percent, visitors authority figures show.
“But we have 1.9 percent additional rooms this year,” Bagger said.
Park Place Entertainment Inc., which owns and operates Caesars Palace and Bally’s/Paris Las Vegas hotel-casinos, among others, says its five Las Vegas resorts should be full this weekend.
“A lot of people get married on Valentine’s Day and stay the weekend or they got married on Valentine’s Day and come for their anniversary,” said Debbie Munch, Park Place spokeswoman.
The economic effect of last year’s holiday weekend was $186.4 million, not including gambling. The authority isn’t predicting this weekend’s impact because visitor spending has changed since Sept. 11, Bagger said.
“Spending patterns among our visitors continue to fluctuate,” he said.
And while many of the city’s nearly 127,000 rooms remain empty on weekdays, Bagger said signs point to recovery.
More visitors are expected to continue to arrive by car than by air as McCarran International Airport’s numbers indicate.
Over the holiday weekend, the airport is expecting a slight decline in passengers — about 80 percent of which are visitors, spokeswoman Debbie Millett said.
“Right now we think we’re down a little bit from last year, but it’s hard to predict,” she said.
In December 2001, there were 6.4 percent fewer seats on airplanes — 63,194 each month — coming into Las Vegas than there were a year ago, according to the airport’s Web site.
What’s not hard to predict are long lines at the airport’s security checkpoints during peak travel days.
“We’re telling passengers to arrive at least two hours early during peak times, but it’s going to fluctuate,” Millett said.