In this Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017, photo, lights and signs are reflected in the window of a pedestrian bridge overlooking the Strip in Las Vegas. A third of Las Vegas tourists last year were millennials — those between 18 to 35 — up from less than a quarter in 2015, according to a report commissioned by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and released Wednesday. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Las Vegas draws more millennial, first-time visitors

LAS VEGAS — The U.S. gambling mecca’s efforts to draw millennials and new visitors are paying off.

A third of Las Vegas tourists last year were millennials — those between 18 to 35 — up from less than a quarter in 2015, according to a report commissioned by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and released Wednesday.

The increase in younger visitors is undoubtedly good news to the destination that has been adding attractions to remain relevant to a generation not as fond of gambling as their elders.

The data also showed that 27 per cent of the city’s 42.9 million visitors in 2016 were first-timers.

So, who came to Sin City and what did they do? Here’s a profile of average visitors:

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HOW OLD ARE YOU?

The city set a record for visitation in 2016, though the number of baby boomers dropped to 28 per cent from 35 per cent in 2015. Generation X visitors made up 35 per cent of tourists, down 1 per cent, while millennial travellers increased to 34 per cent from 24 per cent a year earlier.

“The product that we have now really appeals to millennials,” said Bo Bernhard, director of the International Gaming Institute at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and a noted scholar on gambling and hospitality in Las Vegas. “Nightclubs are like theatre to millennials. They are experiencing a very different Las Vegas than their grandparents.”

Take MGM Resorts International, which several years ago created a committee dedicated to reimagining the gaming experience with the millennial demographic in mind.

The company recently opened an interactive and skill-based gaming social venue at the MGM Grand that is essentially a hybrid bar, arcade and gambling lounge. The company has hosted e-sports tournaments and even released a set of emojis in December.

“We’ve created dining destinations that are social and engaging and created food and beverage experiences ideal for sharing socially,” said Jenn Michaels, MGM’s senior vice-president of public relations. “And, of course, we are looking at our gaming floors and identifying how those can evolve to appeal to today’s traveller.”

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NEW TOURISTS

The increase of first-time visitors is comparable to the level Las Vegas experienced in the mid-1990s, the report said. It attributed the renewed interest to the recovery of the national economy, an increase in millennials who discovered the city and the reinvestment by hotels and others on new experiences and activities.

“Indeed, it is quite possible that the varied and targeted entertainment options and related venues currently in Las Vegas have served to attract new visitors to the destination much the same as the ‘new’ megaresorts did in the 1990s,” according to the report by GLS Research, a San Francisco-based public opinion and market research firm.

Its data is based on information volunteered by 3,600 random tourists polled during 2016. Ninety-one per cent of visitors said they would recommend Las Vegas to others.

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HITTING THE CASINO FLOOR

The number of visitors who gambled during their trip has remained at about 7 in 10 over the past five years, the data show. But gamblers are spending a lot less time on the casino floor.

Last year, visitors spent an average of 1.9 hours gambling, that’s an hour less than in 2015 and more than 2 hours less than two decades ago.

“They are spending more time enjoying the non-gaming amenities,” said Kevin Bagger, executive director of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority’s research centre.

Those other activities include day club-nightclubs, concerts, shows and sports events.

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WHERE ARE YOU FROM?

The report says 81 per cent of visitors came from within the U.S., down 3 per cent from 2015. Meanwhile, the number of foreign visitors rose 3 per cent from 2015, returning to the 19 per cent seen in 2014.

About half of U.S. tourists were from Western states, with the majority coming from California.

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Follow Regina Garcia Cano on Twitter at https://twitter.com/reginagarciakNO . More of her work can be found at https://www.apnews.com/search/ReginaGarciaCano

Regina Garcia Cano, The Associated Press

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