n December, the number of visitors to Las Vegas dropped nearly 11 % to 2.7 million, compared to more than 3 million in December 2007. The month-over-month decline was the largest in 2008, and capped a year in which overall visitation to Las Vegas slid 4.4 % to 37.4 million, compared to 39.2 million visitors in 2007.
The decline was steeper in other Southern Nevada tourist destinations. The number of visitors to Laughlin in 2008 slipped 7.6 % to 2.8 million, while Mesquite saw its visitor count drop 10.5 % to 1.5 million.
The drop-off in December marked the deepest monthly decline of the year, a trend that started in June, when Las Vegas visitation slipped 3.1 %. Since then, the visitor count has dropped steadily and extending to double-digits in September.
While the annual decline in Las Vegas visitation was significant, it was less than half the decline in Strip casino revenue (10.6 %). The bulk of the drop-off in incoming visitors was felt at McCarran Airport, where passenger traffic was down 14.1 % for December and 7.7 % for the year.
Automobile traffic from Southern California was less affected as gas prices plummeted at year’s end. For December, traffic on I-15 at state line was down only 1.3 %, and slipped 5.3 % for the year.