Although total visitation fell in 2009, increases in the last four months of the year are promising

Visitation to Las Vegas fell 3 percent in 2009, from 37.5 million in 2008 to just under 36.4 million, according to new information released by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

On the plus side, visitor volume increased in each of the last four months of the year, ending 15 consecutive months of declines and leading some observers to suggest that tourism may be on the rebound.

The LVCVA expects 37.4 million visitors this year, a 3 percent increase, which would bring the city back to 2008 levels.

“We are comparing against some significant declines that we had in the latter half of last year, but the numbers suggest we have bottomed out,” authority spokesman Kevin Bagger told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The key is consumer confidence, he said.

“That is still a challenge. Consumer spending continues to have a broader impact on Las Vegas as well as nationally. [Visitors] don’t have the money to spend. Once they get here, they are not spending the way they used to spend.”

Citywide hotel occupancy was 81.5 percent in 2009, a decline of 4.5 percent from 2008. But that has to be factored against a 6 percent increase (to 148,941) in the number of rooms, and looks even better, as Bagger pointed out, when compared to the national rate of 55.1 percent.

Convention attendance was down 23.9 percent for the year, while the number of meetings held in Las Vegas was off 13.6 percent compared with 2008. But in December, convention attendance grew 11.6 percent, and the number of meetings rose 10 percent.