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Room rates tumble ahead of holiday weekend

Updated November 23, 2020 - 6:02 pm

Las Vegas room rates for Thanksgiving weekend have dropped in the days leading up to the holiday.

Experts say travel advisories from states and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention probably factored into the price reductions.

“It’s all pointing in the same direction — unless you must travel, please don’t. And Las Vegas is not in the ‘must travel’ category,” said Alan Feldman, distinguished fellow at UNLV’s International Gaming Institute.

Last week, Hotels.com listed a stay at Red Rock Resort at $250 for Friday. On Monday, rates had dropped 47 percent to $133. Rates at The Strat dropped 55 percent in that time frame, from $64 to $29.

Of the 35 properties tracked — including those on the Strip, downtown and in other parts of the valley — all but six reduced their room rates between Nov. 16 and Monday, with drops of 3.6 to 54.7 percent.

Room rates listed for Saturday also have dipped.

On Monday, Hotels.com showed rooms at Paris Las Vegas this Saturday start at $55, about half the price of a stay last weekend. Excalibur prices were cut by nearly 62 percent over the week, from $65 last Saturday to $25 this weekend.

Spokespeople for MGM Resorts International, Caesars Entertainment Inc., Las Vegas Sands Corp., Wynn Resorts Ltd., Boyd Gaming Corp. and Red Rock Resorts Inc. declined to comment on room rates.

Room rates are highly volatile even under normal circumstances and are affected by several factors, including demand and availability, according to Feldman. He believes the CDC’s most recent travel guidance influenced recent price drops, at least in part.

On Thursday, the CDC recommended that people avoid travel over the holiday weekend. Other factors could have played a role in the price drops, including Black Friday sales and Nevada being listed on some states’ travel advisory lists.

“Under these circumstances today, it’s all the more understandable that you’d see prices go down because you’ve seen travel restrictions and requests for limited travel, so fewer people are traveling,” Feldman said.

Feldman added that the price reduction leading up to Thanksgiving weekend goes against the pre-pandemic norm.

“As you get closer to any sort of time frame — a weekend, a holiday, a convention — the number of available rooms gets smaller and smaller, and whatever demand is left usually starts to drive prices higher,” he said.

Further strains

It’s unclear how Nevada’s new capacity limitations, announced Sunday afternoon, will affect demand and room rates.

Starting Tuesday, gaming establishments, restaurants and bars within the state will need to operate at a maximum 25 percent occupancy, down from the previous 50 percent cap. The statewide “pause” will be in place at least three weeks.

The new restrictions could reduce business levels at bars and restaurants and disrupt shows that had recently returned to the Strip.

On Sunday, MGM spokesman Brian Ahern said the capacity limitations will “clearly have a major impact on entertainment,” adding that the company is working with partners “to determine a path forward.” MGM had brought back seven shows this month, including Carrot Top at Luxor Theater and Jabbawockeez at the MGM Grand Garden.

Changes to Las Vegas’ entertainment and dining options could pare down demand and, subsequently, room rates, according to Brendan Bussmann, director of government affairs for Global Market Advisors.

“Any drop in room rates … puts further strain on the industry,” Bussmann said, adding that rates have already been low since June, when casinos were allowed to reopen in after a nearly three-month shutdown.

According to data from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, the average daily room rate in September was $108.13, down 21 percent compared with the same month last year.

Feldman described the low room rates as “ominous,” since Clark County and Nevada rely heavily on taxes generated by the state’s gaming and hospitality sectors.

“This is belt tightening on top of belt tightening,” he said. “That’s really unfortunate.”

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson.

Contact Bailey Schulz at bschulz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @bailey_schulz on Twitter.