In Clark County, early voting came to a close Friday night, November 4th, 2016. Prior to the closing date, well known political candidates: Democrat nominee, Senator Hillary Clinton and running mate, (D) Senator Tim Kaine, Republican nominee, Donald Trump, and running mate, (R) Senator Mike Pence, as well as sitting Vice President, Joe Biden, among others, have flown into Las Vegas to rally and campaign in anticipation of Tuesday’s November 8th election day.
Regardless of whomever you voted or will vote for, it is important to understand how political visits to an area can impact a community. Specifically, how have their visits effected local economies; with a focus, in this news report, on Las Vegas, Nevada?
The Third Presidential Debate of 2016 took place on the UNLV campus in the Thomas and Mack Center on October 19th, 2016. Miles away from the debate stage traffic was barricaded from direct passage routes for locals, gridlock kept people locked in their cars with horns blaring, and hotels were prevented from allowing visitors due to the reputable individuals renting occupancy.
Why Las Vegas? Do other cities face the same irritating byproducts from visits? Aren’t there political spaces built specifically to accommodate these types of events? Does it bring in more money or drive the tourism away? After all, how many want to party in Sin City when politicians are close at hand…
To answer these questions and more, we need to take a look back, to examine the history of electoral debates and political events.
Beginning in 1976, we began seeing the first of the vice presidential debates. During the 1984 elections, we finally began seeing them regularly. But, something key to remember, VP debates do not draw large crowds, normally. This wouldn’t attract tourism it would merely cause a “polite interruption” to the day-to-day.
To date, Chicago, Illinois, has had the highest number of political conventions compared to any other U.S. city. The Windy City has hosted 25 presidential nominating conventions, split into 14 Republican National Conventions, and 11 Democratic National Conventions. The latest being in 1996 when the party nominated President Bill Clinton and VP Al Gore for a second term. Philadelphia, Pittsburgh comes in second place with the highest numbers of political conventions. The city has famously hosted the Constitution Convention of 1787 as well as the Declaration of Independence. It has seen 10 presidential nominating conventions, 6 Republican and 3 Democratic, with the nomination of Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Tim Kaine as the Democratic nominee and running mate.
One thing to remember about these larger cities, in 1996, Chicago had a population of 2.814 million people, and averages 40 million tourists annually.
Likewise, Philadelphia, in 2000, had a population of 1.514 million living within its borders. Last year in 2015 the city broke records in hosting 41 million tourists of the year.
These larger cities are well equipped to capitalize on the visiting crowds coming to the city for these political events. How does Las Vegas stack up?
A predicted population for 2016, for the 29th largest city in the U.S., is said to be, 618,956 people. Regardless of the numbers, this city was built to accommodate guests. Currently, an average of 38.58 million visitors come to Las Vegas, annually; from around the globe.
At present, you can find about 124, 270 hotel rooms within Las Vegas city limits. 62,000 of those rooms come from the strips’, and worlds’, 25 largest hotels. The city was built to accommodate tourism. With this justification, we should expect to see the economy boom during these conventions and debates because of the number of people coming to meet the candidates.
The tourism comes; however, it isn’t as much as would be expected.
Prior to the third presidential debate of 2016, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority approved $4 million worth of spending for UNLV to prepare for the October 19th event. LVCVA justified this expenditure by expecting returns of upwards to $50 million in publicity and exposure.
On the day of the event, KTNV reported roadway restrictions between 4 and 10 pm even affecting access to the McCarren International Airport. In addition to these restrictions Route 201 and 108 had huge lengths of exits closed off entirely. Convention tourism is the second highest income generator for Las Vegas next to first place being the gambling industry. 22,000 conventions take place, annually, bringing in around 5 million people at a time. In 2014, the LVCVA saw $4 billion in economic output specifically due to the convention visitors.
Daily average room rate, in Las Vegas, for the year 2015, was steady at $94.52 ending in the month of December.
According to a report written up by Statistica.com, 92.5% of the hotel rooms in Las Vegas in 2000 were booked over the course of the year. Another highlight came in 2007 with 94% hotel rooms filled. The data is only current to 2015 with 89.8% of hotel rooms occupied, but it will remain to be seen what if any came from the tourism trade with the presidential candidates and their parties’ presence in and out of Las Vegas.