Upbeat Consumer Electronics Show, strong New Year's performance are good signs

Things are looking up in Las Vegas, according to reports.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal notes this week that the recent Consumer Electronics Show drew 120,000 attendees, a 6.1 percent increase from last year’s numbers, according to preliminary statistics released late Sunday by the show producer, the Consumer Electronics Association. International attendance increased by approximately 1,000, and more than 5,000 reporters, analysts and bloggers attended.

On the down side, the number of exhibitors at the show dropped by nearly 2,000 from last year’s 25,000.

CES, which ended a four-day run Sunday, used nearly 2 million square feet of exhibit space at the Las Vegas Convention Center, 200,000 square feet at Las Vegas Hilton and meeting rooms at The Venetian.

Attendance wasn’t the only thing that was up.

“Last year there wasn’t any buzz,” Gary Richter, president of Reno-based exhibitor PanaVise Products told the Review-Journal. “This year there was a lot of buzz. This year the people seem more upbeat. I think people feel we’ve hit bottom and now (they’re thinking) what I am going to do to get out of the bottom.”

Financial analyst Bill Lerner of Union Gaming Group said the numbers from CES, along with a strong New Year’s Eve, might indicate that things are getting better for Las Vegas.

“It felt different than it has for a long time,” Lerner said of his conversations with hotel, restaurant and nightclub owners over the weekend. “Consumers are spending more money. We know more of them are coming here. It’s now about what their spending patterns are.”

New Year’s was the strongest in MGM Mirage history, he said, adding that the combination of CES and the Adult Video News award show at the Palms generated strong volumes. And Hard Rock’s recently opened expansion is driving record gaming volumes at the property, he said. “Multiple restaurateurs that we have spoken with are experiencing growth in key metrics such as covers and average checks,” Union Gaming said in a recent research note to investors. “When combined with overall Las Vegas visitation momentum from September and October we are more confident that 2010 will represent the positive inflection in Las Vegas.”