Survey: Business travelers express confidence in Las Vegas rebound

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas News Bureau

Attendees mill about during the World of Concrete show Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020, at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Thu, Jan 21, 2021 (4:20 p.m.)

Nearly 75% of business travelers said they think Las Vegas will be prepared to safely host conventions during the last half of this year, according to survey results released Thursday.

The survey of 500 likely business travelers nationwide was conducted earlier this month by Virginia-based research firm Heart+Mind Strategies.

Steve Hill, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, released the results during the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce’s virtual Preview Las Vegas event.

Business travel to Las Vegas has been decimated since the onset of coronavirus pandemic in early 2020.

“Traveler sentiment of the past 10 months has really tracked the health situation,” Hill said in a prerecorded video.

“The health situation, as we get six weeks or so from now, is going to be on a positive trajectory,” Hill said. “That’s going to brighten the future as we move into the second quarter. There’s a lot of pent-up demand.”

The survey found over 90% of respondents — people over 21 who traveled overnight for a convention in the 15 months prior to March 2020 — “miss the face-to-face interaction of in-person conferences, conventions and trade shows.”

When asked which U.S. city is best prepared to host conventions during the last six months of this year, 74% of respondents picked Las Vegas.

In 2019, more than 6.6 million conventioneers visited Las Vegas. That figured dropped to about 1.7 million last year, according to the LVCVA.

Tourism officials have pointed to the scheduled World of Concrete trade show in June as a possible measuring stick for how Las Vegas conventions will go during the last half of 2021.

More than 50,000 people attended the group’s last show in February, and organizers are hoping for a similar size crowd in June.

For that to happen, state restrictions limiting conventions to 1,000 people would need to be relaxed.

“If we can get the vaccine done in the next three or four months and we have some herd immunity built up, I think people will feel pretty comfortable,” Hill said.

“The restrictions, which are derived from declarations of emergency from governors across the country, those I think will go away. I don’t think governors want to be in that position,” Hill said.

Concerns have been raised in recent weeks about the slow rollout of the vaccine nationwide, although President Joe Biden’s administration has promised to speed up the pace of the rollout.

Biden, who was sworn in on Wednesday, has vowed to get 100 million doses administered in his first 100 days in office.

Downtown Las Vegas casino owner Derek Stevens said the way Las Vegas comes back from the coronavirus pandemic will be a “leading indicator” for the rest of the country.

“Las Vegas is a city that can help lead America forward,” Stevens said in a prerecorded video. “Talking to customers, I think there’s so much pent-up demand to come to Las Vegas. I think it will be led by the independent traveler, then small groups, then the large groups.”

Stevens said he expects Las Vegas to come back at a “roaring level” in the second or third quarter of this year.

“The convention business, there may be a little bit of a lag to that just because of the time it takes to book things in advance. I don’t envision a long-term problem in Las Vegas,” Stevens said.

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