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Las Vegas visitation up 4.3 percent in July

The Las Vegas visitor industry continued its climb out of recession in July at much the same clip it has for the entire year.

According to a statistical report Monday by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, the nearly 3.5 million people who came to town during the month marked a 4.3 percent gain from a year ago, almost exactly same pace set during the first seven months of 2011.

As a result, the hotel occupancy rate rose 4.3 percentage points, to 88.3 percent, and the average room rate rose 9.9 percent, again nearly the same as the year-to-date rate.

The city is on track to match its peak of 39.2 million visitors set in 2007. However, industry officials say spending continues at a lower pace than in the boom times.

The average daily room rate that year ran $132.09 compared with $104.59 now and the occupancy rate of 90.4 percent is ahead of this year’s 85.3 percent. However, the 148,000 rooms now on the market amount to an increase of more than 15,000 in the past four years.

The anomaly in the July statistics came in the often-volatile convention sector, where attendance dropped 17.9 percent even as the number of meetings increased 30.2 percent, indicating a swing to smaller groups.

Although the spreadsheet points to a moderate recovery, some places have seen better.

Alix Reed, general manager of Pink Jeeps Tours, said, "It feels like we are doing more than 4 percent. In 2008, we had a lot of pinks sitting around. Now, we hate to take one out of service."

But many in the convention business have noted that groups are still watching their budgets carefully and passing on many frills they bought in the past.

The Las Vegas rebound comes as the national lodging industry is also posting much better numbers across the board, according to STR, a travel research company. Measured against the top 25 markets across the country, Las Vegas has beat the average for revenue per available room, a key industry benchmark, but trails several cities.

According to STR, revenue per available room in the top 25 markets rose 9.7 percent, from $74.96 to $82.21, compared with the local increase of 16.2 percent, from $76.76 to $89.21. San Francisco did the best at 21 percent, from $94.68 to $114.56. Las Vegas does not report numbers to STR.

The visitor count in Laughlin continued its years-long slide, down 3.6 percent, to 223,800, while the much-smaller Mesquite market was off 0.8 percent, at 80,300.

Contact reporter Tim O’Reiley at toreiley@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5290.

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