The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is being held virtually this year, and Las Vegas room rates are plunging as a result.
Conventions and trade shows make up half of all revenue in Las Vegas, and the city has been leading the trade show circuit for decades. But during the pandemic, hotel-casinos have faced lockdown and air travel restrictions which have crippled the convention circuit.
The CES 2020 convention attracted over 171,000 people, including 6,517 members of the media, and 4,419 companies exhibited their products. This event alone added up to $291 million in revenue for Southern Nevada.
But this year the CES event is being held this week online only. The resulting lack of in-person attendees will leave a gaping hole in the convention industry revenue by the resulting empty hotel rooms.
With ongoing COVID-19 restrictions resulting in 25% occupancy for casinos and casinos, a Vegas recovery may be years in the making. Conventions normally filled in the midweek hotel slots nicely, dovetailing into a weekend filled with gambling tourists.
But since air travel has been severely restricted as well, Vegas is feeling the pain. Last November, Las Vegas air travel dropped 2.9 million visitors compared with the previous year.
Rock Bottom Rates
Vegas hotel rates already began to plummet last November, but now they are reaching an all-time low.
During last year’s CES convention, Wynn Las Vegas charged $1,032 a night. This year, the rate has plummeted to only $99. Rates along the Strip have plunged significantly, as Circus Circus room rates dropped from $309 per night down to only $17. And that is rock bottom. Even a mini bar visit will cost more than that.
Tourism declines and pandemic lockdowns aside, experts fear that Vegas may never recover its pre-pandemic numbers. And part of the problem comes from the current solution: virtual conventions may become permanent.
Software firms with virtual face time apps like Zoom rose to the rescue during lockdown. Now business meetings could occur in real time without leaving the house. Bathrobe optional.
But this may signal a permanent decline in numbers after the pandemic recedes. Rather than spend millions sending delegates to conventions, companies may choose virtual meetings as a cheaper option.
What arose as a pandemic fix may shape the future of conventions. The entire industry is changing as business travelers get younger. Since the younger generation takes to technology like fish to water, virtual meetings eliminate the need for real time face time.
Even if Las Vegas recovers its previous gambling tourism numbers, the future of huge Vegas conventions remains in doubt.
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