Nevada Fact Book Details Hits Hospitality Industry Took in 2020, Long Recovery Ahead

Posted on: March 9, 2021, 10:17h. 

Last updated on: March 10, 2021, 08:07h.

The latest version of the Nevada Resorts Association’s Fact Book came out on Tuesday, and many of the facts from the past year were absolutely bleak. The first paragraph of the 81-page biennial report lays that out in no uncertain terms.

Nevada Casinos
A nearly vacant Las Vegas Strip in the spring of 2020 because of the coronavirus. A report published by the Nevada Resort Association provided some details regarding the impact the COVID-19 pandemic had on the state in 2020. (Image: UNLV University Libraries)

Employment levels in the state’s hospitality industry, at one point down nearly 150,000 jobs as casinos closed for 78 days because of COVID-19, have rebounded some. However, at just more than 300,000 jobs, the employment level at the end of 2020 was at the same level it was a decade earlier.

While not all of the 2020 economic figures have been reported, the association expects such key indicators as employee earnings and visitor spending for 2020 to be “less than one-half of 2019 totals,” the report states.

In an introductory letter, NRA Chair Ellen Whittemore and President Virginia Valentine said the ever-changing environment surrounding COVID-19 presented several challenges.

We do know that the economic devastation caused by the public health crisis and related response has been tremendous, and no industry has been more impacted than travel and tourism, particularly destination markets, including Las Vegas,” they wrote.

The complete report can be found here.

While the past year has been bleak, especially with the sudden, jarring losses, the association states a full recovery may not occur at the same speed as the decline.

“The COVID-19 health crisis continues to evolve on a daily basis and weakness in the tourism industry is expected to persist into 2021 and beyond,” the fact book states.

Hospitality Industry Nevada’s Major Economic Engine

The hospitality industry has been a critical contributor to Nevada’s economy for decades. The sector accounts for just 9 percent of all US jobs. However, it makes up 23.8 percent of the state’s workforce.

According to the NRA, the industry generated an estimated $1.4 billion in state general fund revenues for the 2020 fiscal year. That’s roughly $1 out of every $3 in the state’s coffers,

The 2020 fiscal year ended last June, which meant the pandemic impacted the last four months of the year. The report states that hotel and other hospitality-associated taxes declined by more than 60 percent for the first six months of 2020.

The outlook for the 2021 fiscal year does not look good either, since the industry has been working at less than 100 percent capacity since the year began in July. The NRA said hospitality businesses are “essentially” running at 50 percent of their traditional levels.

Help is on the way. With the US House set to approve the changes the Senate made to the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, Nevada and its communities stand to receive about $4 billion in funding.

The state and community governments will have some discretion on how to use the monies they’re receiving. That can include replacing dollars lost in the budget due to decreased economic activity. Another option would be to use some of the funding to address the negative economic impact the coronavirus had at the state and local levels.

More Vegas Visitors Gambling

The report did show some positive trends for the gaming industry.

In 2019, 81 percent of people who came to Las Vegas said they gambled at some point during their stay. That’s the highest that figure has been in 10 years, according to the NRA. While still below the 85 percent mark from 2008, the 2019 mark represents a substantial jump from 2016, when only 69 percent said they placed a bet.

In addition, in 2019 14 percent of those surveyed by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority said they came to Vegas primarily to gamble. That was up from just 7 percent the year prior.

It’s likely both of those figures will increase for 2020. That because there were far fewer visitors, and other activities – such as conventions and entertainment – remained closed as the casinos partially reopened.