LAS VEGAS -- As 2012 draws to a close, the future of tourism is looking bright.
Locally, 40 million tourists are expected to visit Las Vegas this year, and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is optimistic that prediction will ring true.
As of October, the last month for which statistics are available, 33.58 million visitors had come to the city year-to-date, leaving a difference of 6.42 million people needed to come in November and December for Vegas to hit its goal. In October and September, 3.52 million people and 3.35 million people visited, respectively, so if the last months at least mirror those, the city could very well see 40 million visitors this year.
"I think that we recognize 40 million is a goal and I still think we are going to get really close to it. We're going to be on the doorstep of that 40 million, if not at it," said Scott Russell, the senior manager of research for the travel authority.
In any case, 2012 will exceed 2007's highwater mark of 39.2 million visitors, Russell said.
The year saw many developments come to fruition, which may have helped attract travelers.
Notably, McCarran International Airport's $2.4 billion Terminal 3 opened in June lessening traffic concerns in Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. In March, the Smith Center for the Performing Arts welcomed its first performances. The center already has a steady lineup of major Broadway productions.
The Mob Museum, Oscar Goodman's steakhouse, American Coney Island and Commonwealth opened downtown, while the new Bacchanal Buffet, Gordon Ramsay Steak and Rattlecan opened on the Strip. In entertainment, "Zarkana" opened at Aria, while Shania Twain and Tim McGraw and Faith Hill began their residencies.
And while all that happened, the actual inventory of hotel rooms stayed relatively flat, Russell said.
Nationwide, the U.S. Department of Commerce is projecting travel to the U.S. will continue experiencing strong growth through 2017, based on the Office of Travel & Tourism Industries 2012 Fall Travel Forecast.
Visitor volume in 2012 is expected to finish at plus 6 percent and reach 66.48 million visitors who stay one or more nights in the U.S. This growth would build on the 4.9 percent increase in arrivals in 2011, which resulted in a record 62.7 million visitors.
According to the current forecast, the U.S. would see 3.6 percent to 4.3 percent annual growth rates in visitor volume over the 2013-2017 timeframe. By 2017 this growth would produce 80.48 million visitors, a 28 percent increase and nearly 18 million additional visitors compared to 2011.
Six countries are expected to account for 72 percent of the projected growth from 2011 through 2017, including Canada, China, Mexico, Brazil, United Kingdom and Japan.
In mid-December, Travel Leaders Group released its annual Travel Trends Survey, and more than 92 percent of the group's agents surveyed throughout the U.S. say clients will spend the same or more on travel in 2013 as compared to 2012. The survey is based on actual booking data and includes responses from 1,045 U.S.-based travel agency owners, managers and frontline travel agents.
"The continued uptick in travel spending year-over-year - and the fact that over 82 percent of agents state the number of bookings are the same or higher than last year at this time - may indicate that Americans are fairly confident we won't go over the 'fiscal cliff' and it goes hand-in-hand with travelers heading to more distant and unique destinations," said Travel Leaders Group CEO Barry Liben.
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