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Sep 20, 2021

The summer of 2021 marked a notable period of recovery for the Southern Nevada tourism industry, as visitation rebounded and the Las Vegas Strip began to resemble its pre-pandemic version. Many shows made their comebacks, headliners returned to the stage, and large events returned as Allegiant Stadium welcomed fans to the state-of-the-art venue. Additionally, the grand opening of Resorts World, the first large-scale resort to be built on the Strip in over a decade, added to the wave of recovery through the summer months.

The easing of travel and business restrictions that coincided with falling COVID-19 cases prompted a notable rise in visitation through the summer. Visitor volume topped 3.3 million in July 2021, an 11.2 percent increase from the previous month. Compared to July 2020 visitor volume was up 129.7 percent; yet compared to July 2019 visitor volume was down 10.4 percent, demonstrating the ground still to make up to reach pre-pandemic levels. The hotel occupancy rate rose in line with visitation, reaching 79.4 percent in July. The weekend occupancy rate decreased by 1.3 percentage points from June to 88.1 percent, while midweek occupancy increased 3.7 percentage points to 74.6 percent, which has more than doubled since February 2021.

Visitors flocked to Southern Nevada by air and by land. Passenger counts at McCarran International Airport in July spiked to 4.2 million travelers, the highest total since February 2020 and a 9 percent increase from June 2021. Likewise, average traffic on Interstate 15 at the Nevada-California border rose 5.3 percent from the previous month, reaching 56,700 vehicles per day. That was the highest daily average traffic level ever recorded at the border, a sign of the increased popularity of road trips in the COVID-19 era.

The increase in visitors contributed to an exceptional month for gross gaming revenue. Clark County broke a record in July for gross gaming revenue, totaling $1.2 billion, a 14.5 percent increase from the previous month and a gain of 89.7 percent from July 2020. The Las Vegas Strip contributed an unprecedented $793.7 million, while the locals segment totaled $240.8 million. The growth in gaming revenue during the pandemic has trended in line with rising personal incomes due to extended unemployment benefits, stimulus payments and other federal aid programs. However, the benefits of the disposable income windfall may be tapering off in the locals segment, which reported a 10.7 percent decrease in gross gaming revenue after peaking at $269.8 million in June.

The rising trend in visitation drove gains in hospitality industry employment, which took an unprecedented downturn at the outset of the pandemic and has been slow to recover. The leisure and hospitality industry added 23,000 jobs between March 2021 and July 2021, bringing total employment to 224,900. The jobs added during that span equated to 23.5 percent of the 97,900 jobs regained since the initial job losses. Overall, leisure and hospitality employment remained 67,400 positions short of the pre-pandemic level. That gap contributed to Southern Nevada’s 9.4 percent unemployment rate, which was the highest among the 51 large metropolitan areas in the nation and nearly double the national average of 5.4 percent.

The summer rebound was not without uncertainty related to the coronavirus. The rise of the Delta variant meant the return of mask requirements and increased caution regarding group gatherings. International travel remained at a practical standstill, and major convention activity has yet to return to Southern Nevada. Although these missing pieces remain critical components for the industry’s return to pre-pandemic conditions, the summer of 2021 provided reason for optimism for the recovery of Las Vegas tourism ahead.

To keep up to date with city of Las Vegas data from Applied Analysis, visit the COMMUNITY DASHBOARD.

Photo: nighttime view of the city of Las Vegas

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