Skift Take

The city is in tune with the pandemic protocol: after the tourists, next come the business travelers. Las Vegas is edging towards recovery, but Delta variant concerns may spoil the party yet.

Hotels, casinos, restaurants and bars in Las Vegas are set to welcome an influx of business travelers this fall.

The city has emerged as the most popular destination in the U.S. for forward flight bookings, according to one corporate travel agency, amid a steady rise in hotel occupancy — despite an emergency order and strict Covid enforcements across many parts of the state of Nevada.

Las Vegas is currently the number one business flight destination, with Austin and San Francisco second and third respectively, according to corporate travel agency TripActions.

Rank Destination
1 Las Vegas
2 Austin
3 San Francisco
4 Denver
5 Orlando
6 Chicago
7 Phoenix
8 New York
9 Dallas-Fort Worth
10 Boston

Meanwhile, McCarran International Airport’s lounges are the third busiest in the U.S., based on data from Collinson’s Priority Pass network, which covers 91 percent of the top 100 busiest airports globally. The top two are Miami and Dallas-Fort Worth.

“Our booking data show a recent spike in bookings, as offices reopen, business travelers schedule meetings and events resume in-person,” said Danny Finkel, chief travel officer at TripActions.

However, face masks are currently required in indoor public spaces across much of Nevada, including Las Vegas, Reno and Lake Tahoe, although an exception has been made for large events, which instead require attendees are fully vaccinated. The infection rate is also rising steadily, with the Delta variant a particular concern, according to local media.

So what’s behind its popularity? Up until June, business guests were lacking. But then one of the first major trade shows, World of Concrete, successfully took place, and that will have boosted confidence.

More vaccinated employees may also be propping up the bookings. Some 92 percent of suppliers (and 88 percent of travel buyers) are fully or partially vaccinated, according to a Global Business Travel Association poll carried out in July.

“Surveys have shown that the majority of business travelers are vaccinated; many have already travelled successfully for leisure and are willing to resume business travel,” added Finkel.

Las Vegas was American Express Global Business Travel’s number one corporate travel destination in 2020, and its data points toward it becoming one of the most popular destinations this year too.

Moving In

The combination of leisure and business trips could now push Las Vegas hotels to within touching distance of October 2019 occupancy figures. They’ve been moving in the right direction over the past several months, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

Las Vegas hotel occupancy. Picture: Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority

Las Vegas hotel occupancy. Picture: Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority

Hilton has seen an unprecedented 60 percent year-over-year growth in the state of Nevada. It has has nearly doubled its presence in Las Vegas during the past three years and represents the only U.S. destination housing all three of its luxury brands. As of June 30, 2021 there were 44 Hilton-branded hotels, according to the Skift Daily Lodging Report.

“Convention business will be key in getting back to 90 percent average occupancy rates in Las Vegas,” said MGM Resorts CEO William Hornbuckle earlier this year.

There’s a lot of potential for 2022 as well, because Europe continues to be locked out during the transatlantic stalemate.

“There is such pent-up demand for people wanting to travel,” said Lee Haslett, Virgin Atlantic’s vice president of global sales, in an interview. “And we know that, similarly, there’s a lot of Brits that want to get out to some of those famous destinations like Orlando or Las Vegas or New York.”

For Gold Medal, the tour operator brand owned by dnata, Las Vegas was the fifth most popular destination booked in July, with the bulk of those trips scheduled for 2022.

For the city to really recover, the reopening of transatlantic travel may be the final push it needs. However, one industry source told Skift their corporate travel agency was seeing some pharmaceutical companies cancel their own conferences — conferences that had been scheduled for the third quarter — and switch to virtual instead.

Vegas may not be back just yet.

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Tags: airport lounges, american express global business travel, collinson, gbta, hilton, las vegas, mgm resorts, nevada, tripactions, virgin atlantic

Photo Credit: Las Vegas is the number one business flight destination for this fall, according to TripActions. Kvnga / Unsplash