Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Thursday, Dec. 30, 2010 | 2:05 a.m.
Bolstered by a big fight this weekend, Las Vegas is gearing up to host 320,000 New Year's Eve revelers who are expected to drop $177 million while they are here — not including gambling.
While the number of visitors is projected to be up 3.6 percent from last year’s 309,000, the nongaming economic impact is estimated at $177.4 million, a slight drop from $181.3 million in 2009, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
Hotel occupancy for New Year’s Eve is expected to be at 97.7 percent, almost flat with last year, primarily because of a 3.6 percent increase in the number of rooms — most recently 2,995 new rooms at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.
New Year’s Eve is typically one of the biggest travel holidays for Las Vegas, but this year could be even bigger, thanks to UFC 125, one of the most anticipated fight cards in the last year.
Saturday’s event at the MGM Grand Garden Arena has sold more than 10,000 tickets and is nearly sold out.
Booking and ticketing website Vegas.com, a sister company of the Las Vegas Sun, has seen a 17 percent year-over-year increase in room sales that include a stay on New Year’s Eve.
Rates for rooms booked through Vegas.com are up 2 percent, from $184 last year to about $187 this year.
Dan Hippler, Vegas.com vice president of marketing, said UFC 125 corresponding with the New Year’s holiday likely had an impact on room sales.
Vegas.com is still advertising available rooms for travelers booking last minute. For a stay from Dec. 30 through New Year’s Day, visitors will find average daily room rates such as $584 at Caesars Palace, $249 at Planet Hollywood and $274 at the Venetian. Las Vegas budget hotels are advertising prices such as $149 at Sahara and $164 at Hooters.
MGM Resorts International spokeswoman Yvette Monet said booking trends for the company’s Las Vegas Strip resorts are on par with last year. Monet said New Year’s is one of the busiest weekends, along with Chinese New Year and the Super Bowl.
Visitors still looking for rooms will find average daily rates like $248 at MGM Grand, $240 at Mandalay Bay and $374 at Aria for a stay that includes New Year’s Eve.
“We are seeing a steady room booking pace, and we are near capacity at all of our Strip resorts,” she said.
“The UFC event definitely adds to the excitement of the weekend and offers yet another activity for visitors here in town,” Monet said.
Other activities on the Strip include a fireworks display at midnight on New Year’s Eve, parties at almost every club and celebrity appearances and performances throughout Las Vegas, including the highly anticipated Coldplay-Jay-Z concert at the Cosmopolitan.
For all those reasons, it’s no surprise Las Vegas ranked No. 1 again on the lists of top New Year’s Eve destinations by travel websites Travelocity and Priceline. The city also topped Southern California AAA’s list of the top destinations for end-of-year holiday travel, according to a survey of local agents.
The Southern California branch of AAA, expects about 7.2 million residents to take a trip of 50 miles or more during the Christmas-New Year travel period.
In the Mountain West, which includes Nevada, the travel and auto club said more than 7 million people were expected to travel 50 miles or more during the Christmas and New Year’s holiday, a 2.4 percent increase from last year.
Nationally, AAA projected 92.3 million people would travel 50 miles or more during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, a 3.1 percent increase from 2009.