Las Vegas tourists accounted for $34.8 billion in 2017 direct spending on travel, hotel stays, dining, entertainment, and gaming. The average visitor paid $824 for their Las Vegas stay.

Las Vegas tourists conventions

An always-busy CES, the largest trade show in Las Vegas, led the way in Southern Nevada setting a new convention attendance record last year. (Image: Consumer Electronics Show)

The economic report comes from Applied Analysis, a Nevada-based hospitality and gaming consultant firm hired by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA).

The findings reveal that Southern Nevada welcomed 42.2 million visitors last year, and while that’s a slight decline from the record 42.9 million set in 2016, it’s still a more than 16 percent premium on the recession low bottomed in 2009.

The $34.8 billion in direct spending from tourists is also a year-over-year decline. In 2016, Applied Analysis said guests directly spent $35.5 billion, or about two percent more.

Titled “The Economic Impact of Southern Nevada’s Tourism Industry and Convention Sector,” the report also revealed that a record 6.6 million convention and meeting attendees came to the region. That’s a 5.3 percent increase on 2016.

“Tourism means more to Southern Nevada than entertainment means to Los Angeles, than aerospace means to Seattle or auto manufacturing means to Detroit,” Applied Analysis Principal Jeremy Aguero told the Las Vegas Sun.

Gaming Remains King

Despite Las Vegas and Southern Nevada casinos continuing to look to diversify their resorts with non-gaming attractions, the gambling floors still generate the most revenue for the house.

Applied Analysis says gaming accounts for the largest share of visitor spending at 22.6 percent. Hotel rooms and shopping were respectively second and third at 17.4 percent and 16.3 percent. Food and beverage was fourth (11.4 percent), and local transportation the fifth largest spending category at 10.7 percent.

With far and away the most hotel rooms of any US city, it should come as little surprise how heavily Las Vegas relies on tourism to support its economy. But to put it in perspective, the $34.8 billion in visitor spend equates to more than 31 percent of Southern Nevada’s gross metropolitan output.

Convention Segment Growth

The tourism industry report says conventions were responsible for approximately 15.7 percent of all visitors to the region. Applied Analysis states what few residents in Las Vegas don’t already know: conventions are critical to the city’s fiscal health.

“The convention and meeting segment is valued for its positive impact on average daily room rates and contributions towards smoothing out seasonality associated with leisure travel patterns,” the presentation declared. “In addition, visitor survey results have indicated that convention travelers spend more per trip than leisure visitors.”

The study concludes that the region is poised for significant growth in the coming years due to large-scale investments. The Las Vegas Convention Center is undergoing a $1.4 billion expansion and overhaul, something that Applied Analysis believes will allow the city to “enhance its competitive advantage and build upon its track record of success.”

A 350,000-square-foot expo center is also being constructed in downtown Las Vegas at a cost of $76 million. Last year, the LVCVA closed the Cashman Center downtown and handed it over to the city.