Travel experts seeing tourism momentum in Las Vegas despite CDC discouraging travel | Coronavirus

LAS VEGAS (FOX5) — Even after they relaxed certain gathering restrictions for vaccinated people Monday, the Centers for Disease Control still discourages travel for everybody.

But in Southern Nevada, travel industry professionals say they’ve been observing a shift lately.

“We have been seeing increasing confidence and plans for travel coming through in our customer surveys more and more as with indications the pandemic is receding,” said¬†Hilarie Grey, a communications professional for Las Vegas-based Allegiant Airlines, in a statement to FOX5 Monday.¬†

The same seems to be true for hotel bookings.

The AAA spokesperson for Nevada said they are seeing a shift in consumer behaviors.

“In late 2020, what we noticed is hotel bookings were happening within 24 hours of the departure, so people were making extremely last minute decisions,” said Sergio Avila with AAA.

Just a few months ago, uncertainty among travelers was more apparent. But he says things have recently changed.

“What we’ve seen toward the beginning of 2021, is that timeframe is expanding a little. We’re seeing more bookings that are three to seven days out from a person’s departure,” said Avila.

What could this indicate?

“To me, it tells me people are feeling more comfortable with restrictions, and things that are in place already,” said Avila. “Especially now that they’re being loosened, and so, people are starting to plan those trips because it seems there is that pent-up demand.”

The CDC is hoping to keep a handle on that pent-up demand, for now, at least. Even with more Americans vaccinated, health experts predict a spike could happen again soon due to spring break travel.

The CDC director said there is usually a rise in COVID-19 cases following a surge in travel.

McCarran International Airport’s spokesperson, Joe Rajchel, said he hopes travelers stay vigilant.

“As more people, ya know, begin to travel, feel more comfortable traveling, the airport’s gonna be busier. There’s gonna be more people here. And so social distancing is going to be, ya know, a harder thing to achieve for people, and so wearing that mask and adhering to best practice is really important,” said Rajchel.


Aerial view the Las Vegas Valley on September 21, 2019. (Photo by Alive Coverage/Sipa USA/AP Images)

The apparent direction of this momentum is welcome news to rideshare drivers, and other travel and hospitality workers who depend on tourism.

“My reaction is: bring it on,” said Larry Ehrlich, a local Lyft and Uber driver.

He said he will “absolutely” start making more money if tourism returns to the Las Vegas Strip.

He said pre-pandemic, his passenger ratio was about 40% locals, 60% tourists. But in the age of COVID-19, he said that has changed to “75% local business, compared to 25% tourist business.”

And not only that, he’d get to play tour guide again, something he says is one of his favorite parts of the job.

“Recommendations to what nightclubs to go to, what bars and restaurants to go to, and just in general, have that small talk,” said Ehrlich.

So will Las Vegas be the place people come if guidelines continue to loosen?

It’s looking that way so far.

In the seven-state region making up Avila’s AAA chapter, he said Las Vegas is the number one destination for hotel bookings.

“When it comes to January and February of this year, Las Vegas and Reno are actually the number 1 and number 2 most popular destinations,” said Avila. “Travel volume is down, but those people who are choosing to travel are choosing Las Vegas.”