McCarran Airport's 2008 passenger numbers were released yesterday and traffic for the year was down 7.7 percent with December being down 14.1% over the same month in '07. It was the worst year over year showing since 1981 but the December stat really tells the story of what is going on in Vegas. A 14% drop represents over a half million less people coming to town. Ouch! That equates to a whole lot of empty hotel rooms.
I definitely noticed a difference in the size of the crowds during my trip the week before X-Mas. It is usually not the busiest weekend of the year but this year was definitely unlike anything I have ever seen. Last year, I spent the same weekend at the Palms and on Friday night, the line to get into the Rain was circling the casino. It was easily a 2 hour wait to get in. This year, I was there also on Friday night and not only was there no line, I overheard one group of people talk about club-hopping around the Palms, something that would have been impossible just 6 months ago. Just about everywhere else has similarly light crowds.
The upside to the Vegas downturn is the abundance of deals. Not a day goes by without at least 3 emails with new offers and I am even seeing offers for Super Bowl weekend, typically one of the busiest and most expensive of the year. I also received 3 free nights this month at Encore just days after it opened and I am the furthest thing from the biggest fish in Mr. Wynn's database. I wish I could take him up on it! So those who are still planning to come to Vegas, shop around as the deals are plentiful. You can end up with an amazing room at a great price or a decent room practically free and I don't see it ending anytime soon.
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