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24 April 2017
By Gary Trask
Right before our eyes, Las Vegas is changing.
Everything — what is offered throughout the city, who visits, what said visitors partake in once their stay begins — has seen dramatic shifts during recent years.
That's the primary takeaway from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority's annual Las Vegas Visitor Profile Study, compiled by San Francisco-based GLS Research and released earlier this month.
Some of the numbers were predictable; others, not so much. Either way, there was a ton of compelling data and trends throughout the report, which was compiled by randomly conducting 3,600 in-person interviews throughout last year with Las Vegas visitors at least 21 years of age and who planned to depart the city within 24 hours of completing the survey.
Here are 10 that stood out the most to us.
10. Fewer people are walking
With Uber and Lyft seemingly taking over the world, fewer people are walking when in Las Vegas. Just 36% of people surveyed claim they used their own two legs to get around, which is on par with the 2015 study (35%), but a striking drop from 2013 (52%).
No doubt, the ride-hailing trend has altered how people visit Vegas. For instance, if you’re going to Vegas for a convention (more on that later), you no longer have to pick a hotel that's near the trade show location for fear of blowing up your expense report with taxi fares. It's much more affordable and convenient to get around town than ever before.
However, as pointed out in our Top 10 Las Vegas Trip Tips column from last year, a stroll down the Strip can be one of the most entertaining parts of your trip, if you are strategic and cautious — especially since it's perfectly legal to grab an adult beverage to enjoy.
9. The internet's influence is rising
Those reviews you find on Yelp, Facebook and Trip Advisor may carry more weight than you think.
The number of visitors who said the internet "influenced" their decision for accommodations was 67%, up from 51% in 2013. Also, 53% of 2016 visitors said they booked their transportation to Las Vegas via the internet, which is up from 41% in 2013, and 72% said they booked their accommodations online, up from 59% in 2013.
8. More people are hitting DTLV
Since it appears not many of you took my advice and hoofed around while visiting Vegas, it was nice to see that you did indeed follow my recommendation of getting off-Strip and hitting Downtown Las Vegas.
Over one-half (53%) of 2016 visitors said they visited Downtown Las Vegas, a big jump from the year before (32%) and from an average of 33.5% from 2012–2015.
Nearly six in 10 (59%) of the folks that went "old school" said the primary reason was to see the Fremont Street Experience, the five-block area highlighted by a 90-foot-high, 1,500-foot-long white canopy that blasts different music and light shows every night.
Many of the casinos and hotels have been renovated in recent years and have become popular destinations for all ages, including El Cortez Hotel & Casino, which we enjoyed a visit to last fall as part of its 75th anniversary celebration to enjoy the fine dining, drinks, chic rooms and player-friendly gaming options.
7. People are spending more
Trip expenditures have increased in every category across the board for Las Vegas visitors. The amount spent on food and drink in 2016 was $318.09, up significantly from $265.11 in 2012, $278.95 in 2013, $281.88 in 2014, and $292.00 last year.
The average amount spend on local transportation in 2016 was $119.766, way up from 2012 ($94.22). Similar jumps from 2016 from 2012 were seen for expenditures on shopping ($156.91, from $149.29) and shows and entertainment ($67.55, from $42.89).
6. More sightseeing
Thirty percent of visitors last year said they experienced Las Vegas attractions for which they had to pay, such as theme parks, water parks or roller coasters. That's up from 20% in 2015.
Attractions outside Las Vegas were also more popular with tourists, with 21% saying they visited nearby places, up from 14% in 2012 and 16% in 2014.
The most popular nearby destinations were the Grand Canyon (65%), Hoover Dam (57%), Zion National Park (12%, down from 20% in 2014), and Lake Mead (11%, down from 21% in 2012).
5. More convention business
The Las Vegas convention and trade show business is brisk, according to the new study. Eleven percent of visitors said they had attended a convention, trade show, association or corporate meeting while in town. That's a sizable jump from the 7% that responded in the affirmative in 2015.
As we have found out over the last couple years (read here and here) at the annual Global Gaming Expo (G2E), Las Vegas is indeed the perfect location for trade shows and conventions, with an abundance of great exhibit floors, restaurants and other "networking" locales.
4. Visitors are younger
Well, you didn't think we'd get through an entire article about consumer activity and behavior without mentioning millennials, did you?
Yes, as we've heard over and over, millennials are not prone to gambling, but studies also prove that doesn’t mean they don't like Las Vegas. In fact, visitors to Las Vegas are both younger and more diverse than ever. The share of visitors who were 40 years old or older was just over one-half in 2016, with an average age of 44.0. Both are the lowest observed over the past five years, down from 44.8 in 2012, 45.8 in 2013, 45.2 in 2014 and 47.7 last year.
Also, visiting groups with people under the age of 21 in their group increased to 12% last year, up from 10% each in 2013 and 2014 and 8% in 2015 — which, by the way, breaks another one of our trip tip recommendations: Leave the kids home.
3. More first-time visitors
Since the average age of visitors to Las Vegas has dropped, that would also lead to more first-time visitors, and that indeed was the case.
In 2016, 73% of visitors had visited Las Vegas before, but 27% were first-time visitors, which is similar to the levels seen in the mid-1990s.
According to the LVCVA, the renewed interest in Las Vegas may have been enhanced by "several factors," including "a recovering national economy, a rise in Millennials discovering the destination for the first time, and continued reinvestment by hotel and destination stakeholders on new experiences and activities within their properties."
2. People are gambling less
There's a reason so many resort-casinos in Las Vegas have been upping the ante, so to speak, on nongaming amenities in recent years. While the number of visitors to Las Vegas is at historic highs, gambling revenues have dropped or remained stagnant. Yes, more and more people are coming to Las Vegas with gambling NOT the No. 1 reason for their visit, a notion that would have been blasphemous not too long ago.
When asked about the primary purpose of their current visit to Las Vegas, 52% of all visitors mentioned vacation or pleasure, up significantly from 2012–2015 figures (average of 45%), but just 4% said they were in Las Vegas primarily to gamble, a steady drop from 2013 (15%), 2014 (12%) and 2015 (10%).
And those who are still gambling are spending less time at the tables or sitting in front of a slot machine. Among those who gambled while in Las Vegas, 71% played for two hours or less. That number was 50% in 2015.
1. People (still) love Las Vegas
While the age and actions of those that visit Las Vegas is seeing a transformation, one thing that has remained steady is the level of satisfaction.
Almost all respondents (89%) to the LVCVA survey were either "very" or "somewhat" satisfied with their trip. About nine in 10 visitors reported being "very satisfied" in 2016, while 1 in 10 said they were "somewhat satisfied," about the same as 2015.
And of those who were only "somewhat satisfied," one of the most common reasons given wasn't any fault of Las Vegas. Instead, the trip being too short (14%) was to blame. Other reasons cited were too expensive (12%) or that it was too hard to get around (14%).
As for the likelihood of visitors to make a return trip, 87% of visitors saying they were "somewhat," "very" or "extremely likely" to come back to Las Vegas. Thirty-eight percent said it was extremely likely, up from 14% in 2015.
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