LVCVA on Vegas' Non-Gaming Products

Gambling isn't the only reason anymore why travelers are hitting Sin City, but it remains the highest single visitor expense according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority's latest visitor profile study.  The Bellagio, which is owned by MGM Mirage

Las Vegas has transformed itself from a destination solely for people in pursuit of gaming glory into a multi-dimensional town with a surfeit of restaurants, shopping, entertainment and family attractions. So it's no wonder the 3,600 visitors polled by the LVCVA reported spending more in 2006 on non-gaming activities, while at the same time budgeting more for gambling.

"That sort of mirrors what's going on in the destination in terms of the addition of non-gaming products and attractions," says Kevin Bagger, LVCVA's director of research. "The visitor is drawn by a mix of dining and the gaming opportunities, as well as the resort properties themselves."

The observation should make travel agent's lick their lips. Giving travelers more options makes Las Vegas an even more attractive destination for clients, especially luxury travelers.

"The people I am booking into Las Vegas are a very different clientele now," says Donna Caruso, manager of First Class Travel in San Diego and a Las Vegas travel specialist. "It used to be that people just went to Vegas for a weekend or so. Not anymore. Now they want to do shows, go to the spas and dine in the specialty restaurants." In fact, the LVCVA's study showed that people were more motivated to vacation in Las Vegas because of its fine-dining restaurants than because of its casinos. Average Las Vegas Visitor Spending Up

Las Vegas' gradual shift from mass market to luxury began right around the time that the Bellagio opened in 1998. "That was the first real luxury hotel that marketed to luxury clientele," Caruso says. "After that, they all began to go up. Now the higher-end clientele go to Vegas because it's become that kind of luxury destination."

With a better mix of options open to travelers, spending, of course, tends to rise. That was part of the LVCVA's findings, which found across-the-board rises in traveler expenditures, especially in lodging expenses, which mushroomed to $107.12 on average per night. Out of all room nights booked, half were made directly through the hotel or motel, while only 15 percent of respondents said they used a travel agent.

For clients wanting to save some money, Caruso says that it's best for them stay Sunday through Thursday, when the hotels give their best rates.

Las Vegas attracted a record 38.9 million visitors in 2006, and the LVCVA expects that number to rise to 39.3 million in 2007, helped in part by the addition of some 5,010 hotel rooms.