Las Vegas Travel Rising, Approaching Pre-Pandemic Levels

  • Las Vegas travel has grown significantly this year, but is not at 2019 levels yet
  • Nevada is on pace for a record-breaking gambling year despite lower travel
  • Harry Reid International Airport’s record for yearly visitors is in jeopardy of falling
  • Local casinos reported $11bn in revenue in 12 months from last September
Airplane on tarmac in Las Vegas
Las Vegas travel is quickly rising as experts hope for a return to pre-pandemic numbers soon. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Close, but not there yet

Las Vegas travel is nearing pre-pandemic levels as a successful rebuilding period in 2022 is entering its final stages.

up 6% year-to-year but down 11% from 2019

According to travel officials, 3.2 million people traveled to Las Vegas in August, up 6% year-to-year but down 11% from 2019, the last complete year before the effects of the pandemic were realized in America. Still, there is reason for optimism as the city known for its endless entertainment continues to climb in the right direction.

Nevada is also on course for a record-breaking year in gambling totals, having reported more than $1bn in revenue for 19 straight months. The trajectory of the gambling scene combined with the increasing travel is a perfect storm for Las Vegas to return to the prominence it once enjoyed.

Las Vegas travel awaiting international arrivals

32 million visitors in total traveled to Las Vegas last year. While that is certainly enough to meet the required amount for most areas in the world, it was down nearly 25% from the 42 million that visited in 2019. 

Through August, 25.2 million visitors had made the trip to Vegas, practically ensuring the 32 million figure will fall before the end of the year— but despite the constant growth, prominent members of the Las Vegas community are hoping that they can hit their travel threshold as soon as possible.

We’re not all the way recovered internationally, but that’s largely because of the slow recovery in Asia.”

“From a domestic standpoint, we’re over-recovered,” said Steve Hill, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA). “We’re not all the way recovered internationally, but that’s largely because of the slow recovery in Asia.”

The Asian struggles to return to pre-pandemic life are well documented. Macau, a region on the south coast of China known as a mecca for high-rollers, has been subject to frequent travel restrictions and casino shutdowns, which have caused both tourism and gambling to fall down the list of priorities.

Around 14% (5.8 million) of Las Vegas visitors in 2019 were from overseas. That number is down significantly.

Travel and gambling records

A majority of Las Vegas travelers arrive via Harry Reid International Airport, which set a record by servicing 51.5 million customers in 2019. That number fell significantly in 2020 and 2021, but through August, 34 million guests were recorded. That’s on pace for 51 million by the end of the year and already includes a record three-month period from June to August.

I believe next year, with more recovery going on, is going to be a big growth year for our town”

“We may get very close to what we had in 2019 at the end of this calendar year, but I believe next year, with more recovery going on, is going to be a big growth year for our town,” said Rosemary Vassiliadis, director of aviation for Harry Reid. “From an aviation standpoint, there were a lot of aircrafts that were taken out of service once the pandemic hit, and a lot of those will be back in service [next year].”

Many visitors head to Las Vegas for the gambling experience, which starts in the airport with over 1,400 slot machines, which were put into operation in 1986. Earlier this year, the operating company (Airport Slot Concession Inc.) reported a lifetime revenue of $1bn from the airport slots.
Gambling is also on record pace across the state as casinos continue to increase their reach.

Local gambling centers reported $11bn in revenue year-to-year from the start of September and are on pace to reach $14.7bn by New Year’s Day, which would be a 10% increase on last year’s record-breaking total.