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No Kidding: More families brought children on Las Vegas vacations

One tourism expert suspects surge of families will subside as conventions make their comeback
The Entertainment Capital of the World has been a draw for families with children during the pandemic, and hospitality insiders have differing opinions.
Published: May. 10, 2022 at 10:59 PM PDT
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LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - The Entertainment Capital of the World has been a draw for families with children during the pandemic, and hospitality insiders have differing opinions on whether tourists with little ones will keep flocking to Las Vegas.

According to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, in 2019, 5% of tourists brought children with them. That number surged to 21% in 2021.

From the Strip to Downtown Las Vegas, families on their holiday said they are surprised by the amount of tiny tourists in town.

“At the hotel, [there’s] a lot of families at the pool,” said one mother from Canada, who brought the kids for Spring Break, eager for two Golden Knights games while they are in town.

“Vegas is a great place for families,” one father with pre-teens and teenagers said, coming from San Francisco for his wedding.

From the Spring Break travel season, the BTS concert and the NFL Draft, the start of 2022 has brought tourists of all ages for a Las Vegas vacation.

Is this Las Vegas’ new travel trend?

FOX5 turned to Alan Feldman, a former MGM executive and Distinguished Fellow of the International Gaming Institute at UNLV, for insight.

With large-scale conventions not quite back to 2019 levels, Feldman said the pandemic in 2020, 2021 and into 2022 has offered families a unique opportunity: an affordable Vegas family vacation.

“Rooms are plentiful, and their prices are low by comparison to what they would be in a normal year. And so as a result, the value of Las Vegas goes up. People who are traveling with family start looking at it in a different way,” Feldman said. “You’re going to see a complete change around here as we start getting conventions back, as the long haul international travel comes back,” Feldman said.

Feldman said Las Vegas should never again take a page from the 1990s tourism playbook and focus on luring families back in droves, although people with kids will always eye a Vegas vacation.

“Even in the 90s, that was, with all respect that was a historical mistake and a historical blip,” Feldman said. “It wasn’t the business model that makes Las Vegas strong... Las Vegas is and always will be a place for adults.

Lori Nelson-Kraft, senior vice president of communications with the LVCVA, echoed that sentiment, telling FOX5 in a statement that business and adult travel remains the economic focus:

“Las Vegas continues to offer a variety of attractions and activities that can be enjoyed by all ages, however, LVCVA’s marketing and sales efforts continue to focus on inviting adults to visit Las Vegas for a vacation, meeting or trade show. "

At least one resort hopes to capitalize on the kiddie comeback and keep drawing families.

Circus Circus, according to Feldman, has been historically geared towards families for decades, but has noticed a comeback in droves.

“Circus Circus is obviously a very family-friendly place, but we saw more families than than normal. We had record-breaking numbers coming through here in 2021,” said Shana Gerety, senior vice president of operations. She said Adventuredome attendance on a good day would be 2,000 people; pandemic trends led to attendance of 6,000 people a day.

“The past few weeks have been absolutely nuts. We’ve been packed,” Gerety said.

To keep visitors coming back, the casino and resort has invested $30 million in interior and exterior renovations. Among the changes: new rides inside Adventuredome, a new carnival fare food court with turkey legs and funnel cake and a brand-new pool. “ We’ve added more bars, we’ve changed restaurants... getting word out there, letting people know that Circus Circus is not just an old property, we’re really taking time to make it better,” Gerety said.

Gerety said pandemic trends have turned Las Vegas into a family-friendly destination. Migration trends of new residents have certainly brought more families to the Las Vegas valley.

“Vegas itself is starting to become a family place. If you look around, there’s a lot of properties that are trying to capture that family feel. I don’t think that the family feel is going to fall off. Especially as this town starts to get sports teams, and all that stuff coming through; those are real ‘family feels’,” Gerety said.

What will Las Vegas hold, for family vacations in the future? Depending on the property, as conventions return, Feldman advises tourists to look for “slow” periods.

“You’ve got to choose your dates a little more carefully. I think you’ve got to be a little more flexible. There are definitely some times of the year, August would be one of them, where you’re going to find incredible value here. The prices are lower, because the convention calendar has slowed down,” Feldman said.