(Bloomberg) -- The nation’s gaming and entertainment capital is almost back to normal.
More than 34 million people flocked to Las Vegas through October, driven by a rebound in concerts and conventions. The surge is on pace to top last year’s volume, though slightly shy of pre-pandemic levels, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
Las Vegas is the market leader and a proxy for tourism nationally, and it’s natural that the city would “lead the anticipated recovery,” said Cathy Breden, chief executive officer of the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, which tracks activity in the business to business exhibition industry, in an email.
Of course, what passes for “normal” in Las Vegas, a city with a mini Eiffel Tower and a Sphinx on its main street, would be larger than life anywhere else. Helping the city draw crowds in 2023 were a Formula 1 Grand Prix race, the upcoming Wrangler National Finals Rodeo and stops by Beyoncé, Taylor Swift and Usher. Boding well for the new year, according to Erica Johnson, director of communications at the city’s visitors authority, are such disparate events as Super Bowl LVIII, slated for the week of Feb. 5 to 11, and the World of Concrete tradeshow.
Nearly 42.9 million people visited Las Vegas in 2019, the second-highest year on record, according to Michael Parker, associate director of public finance at S&P Global Ratings. “The pre-pandemic recovery bar was set very high,” he said in an email.
“We expected a fairly long road back for Las Vegas visitor counts,” Eric Hoffmann, an associate managing director at Moody’s Investors Service, said in an email, adding that the company changed the city’s rating outlook back to stable from negative two years ago because of its “quite steady” fiscal health. Moody’s rates the city Aa2.
Parker noted that it took some time for domestic and international travel to resume. “In the years leading up to the pandemic, international travelers regularly made up over one-tenth of total visitors to Las Vegas. Because people entering the US no longer needed to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test as of June 2022, calendar 2023 is the first full year of minimal US Covid-related travel restrictions.”
One bright spot in the city’s recovery is the convention business. Through October, Las Vegas convention attendance is more than 5 million, 24% more than the comparable period in 2022, and already topping that year’s total. The record year for convention attendance was 2019, with more than 6.6 million attendees.
“Las Vegas’s rebound is not taking too long,” Breden said in an email. She added it was in line with CEIR’s forecast “and is perhaps a little ahead.” Vegas is expected to make a full recovery next year.
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