Las Vegas Airport Travel Continues Steep Slump, As Casino Tourism Still Sluggish

Posted on: February 25, 2021, 03:14h. 

Last updated on: March 7, 2021, 05:26h.

Travel to and from Las Vegas’s McCarran International Airport continued its steep decline in January, down nearly 64 percent from the same month in 2020. This slowdown is being felt at casinos. 

McCarran International Airport
A sign at McCarran International Airport welcomes visitors to Las Vegas. During the pandemic, 30 million fewer passengers have used the airport. (Image: KTNV-TV)

In January, 1,505,442 arriving and departing passengers made their way through the airport, according to the Clark County Department of Aviation. 

The previous January, two months before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, 4,156,163 travelers used the airport. This means 2.6 million fewer passengers made use of McCarran airport this January, compared to one year earlier.

The airport is just east of the Las Vegas Strip near the Tropicana, MGM Grand, and other hotel-casinos at the southern end of the resort corridor. Since the first COVID-19 cases surfaced in Nevada last March, the number of passengers using the airport has declined by more than 30 million people.

Because Las Vegas is in a remote desert location, this falloff in airline travel has had a negative impact on tourism. Throughout the years, air travel has been vital in getting large numbers of people to the city. The nearest major metropolitan area, Los Angeles, is four or more hours away by car. Phoenix is at least five hours away.

The 19.03 million people who visited Las Vegas in 2020 were 55.2 percent fewer than the previous year. This was the lowest number of visitors since 1989, the year the Mirage Las Vegas opened on the west side of the Strip under the direction of casino mogul Steve Wynn.

With fewer visitors in Las Vegas this January and restrictions on gaming floor capacity, casinos on the Strip had a falloff in winnings of nearly 44 percent.

Hopeful for a Turnaround 

Casino executives remain hopeful that tourism will pick up soon.

Earlier this month, MGM Resorts announced it would resume normal weekly operations at three of its Strip resorts. The venues had closed their hotel rooms during the midweek period because of low consumer demand.

Beginning March 3, the hotel rooms at Mandalay Bay, the Mirage, and Park MGM will be open seven days a week.

We believe the demand for travel and visitation in Las Vegas could be robust later in the year,” MGM Resorts CEO and President Bill Hornbuckle said in a statement. “In fact, our gross bookings in January were the strongest since the start of the pandemic, and guests are increasingly booking 90-plus days out.”

Other resorts, including Encore at Wynn Las Vegas on the east side of the Strip, have remained closed during the slow middle of the week.

Airport Name Change

Earlier this month, the seven-member Clark County Commission voted unanimously to change the airport’s name to honor former US Sen. Harry Reid (D).

The airport now is named after Pat McCarran, a Democrat who served in the US Senate from 1932 until his death in 1954.

The Federal Aviation Administration does not approve name changes but must perform some administrative tasks before the change can occur.

The cost to change the airport name, estimated at $2 million or more, will be paid by private donors, not taxpayers, according to Commissioner Tick Segerblom (D), who proposed the name change.