Down on the Upside
July numbers are out, and Las Vegas has finally hit one out of the park.
The seventh month of 2010 saw a 4.7 percent increase in visitation, and this represented the largest monthly increase since December of 2005.
A 5-year record is nothing to sneeze at. If ever there were a headline that screamed "recovery", this would be it.
Powering the increase was record drive-in traffic from Southern Calidouchia and a bump in convention attendance. Visitation was also helped by the fact that July of 2010 had one more Saturday than July of 2009. It appears that Las Vegas has reached its goal of bringing more people into the city. Frankly, I'm shocked that promotions such as "Camp Vegas" are resonating with people across the nation, but what can I say ... it is.
The increase in visitation allowed room occupancy to remain at 84%, and the average nightly room rate to bump up slightly to $90.
That was the good news.
Now for the bad ...
Despite the increase of human presence in Las Vegas, casino winnings were down roughly 5%.
This means that Las Vegas is once again picking up vacation mindshare, but the town as most of us know it continues to "evolve" into something other than a gambling destination.
Case in point: A friend of mine got back from a stay at the Encore over Labor Day Weekend, and he informed me that it would be his last trip to Las Vegas. Ever.
When I quizzed him as to why, he told me that he had a miserable time and just felt out-of-place. He said "there were kids staying 5 to a room on every side of me, and it no longer feels like an exclusive place for adults. I feel too old for my favorite places in Las Vegas now. It just doesn't do it for me anymore."
My friend is a whopping 38 years old. He has been coming to Las Vegas for longer than I have and he has been staying and playing at the Wynn/Encore several times per year for the past five years.
His is not a unique sentiment among people I personally know. I feel as though folks my age are falling out of love with Las Vegas at an accelerated pace, and this demographic shift is being reflected in the gaming numbers.
My own friends tend to range in age from about 32-45 years old, and almost all of them have indicated to me that they intend to reduce their trips to the city. About 3 weeks ago, I was involved in a conversation with a group of acquiantances in Seattle, and it was unanimously decided that Las Vegas was no longer "cool" on any level. Instead, the pendulum had completely swung in the opposite direction, and the pronouncement was made that Vegas was now, indeed ... lame. One person went so far as to call it "the lamest place in the known universe".
I actually tried to advocate for the place ("hey, Downtown and some of the party pits are still pretty fun"), so don't shoot the messenger.
Hell, a couple of my forum members had a meeting in Vegas this weekend, and from what I have read so far, they all had a pretty lackluster time. One or two of them even left early.
Let's face it ... Las Vegas just isn't the same without me. The prospect of a VegasRex sighting was what kept most people coming back, and who could blame them? I put the town on the map. I was the boom decade. I made the city what it was. Now that I have ceded Vegas to the sub-30 douchebuckets of Mexifornia, the rest of my generation has done the same.
It's clear that Las Vegas will continue to be a huge draw for the foreseeable future, but the numbers tell the story of a new era. An era where cheap rooms and nightclubs are the attraction. An era where groups of college kids outnumber married couples in even the best hotels. An era where the average age of visitors continue to decline with each passing year. An era where gaming revenue will dwindle even as tourism picks back up.
It's the end of the VegasRex era, the end of Generation X, and the beginning of Generation ... well, whatever the hell this is:
Time marches on and the present belongs to the youth, regardless of how lame and untalented those youth may be.
As for gambling-centric Vegas, well, what can you say but ... thanks for the memories.
Now if you will excuse me, I must turn in early tonight.
I have a flight to McCarran tomorrow morning, and who knows, I might even play a few games while I'm there.
I'm aware that gambling in Las Vegas is sooo 2007, but what the hell, I'm going retro.
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