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Reno’s tourism decline moderate compared to U.S. overall


Officials at the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority (RSCVA) this week said data shows the region’s tourism industry is faring better than the national average. Northern Nevada’s outdoor attractions and the increased number of flights to Reno’s airport are being credited, in part, for the less dramatic decline.

RSCVA reported that through the first three months of 2021, taxable room revenue in Washoe County was down 0.5% compared to the same period in 2020—before the pandemic took hold and put a halt to most travel. During the same period, cash occupied rooms were down 6.4% year-over-year, but the average daily rates for rooms increased 6.3%, helping to offset fewer rooms booked.

When evaluating tourism industry data from March 2021 through the end of the year, many travel research organizations are comparing figures with those from 2019, rather than 2020 when much of the U.S. travel industry was shuttered, to get a better picture of where the industry sits. Tourism Economics, a global forecasting and analysis firm, reports travel spending in the U.S. was down 31% in March 2021 compared to March 2019. In northern Nevada, the decline was much less—just 14.7%.

RSCVA President and CEO Charles Harris

Charles Harris, RSCVA’s president and CEO, expressed relative optimism that Reno’s tourism industry would continue its recovery thanks to the region’s amenities and work done to expand and diversify the region’s economy. 

“Northern Nevada has been somewhat insulated due to the destination’s outdoor amenities, arts and culture, and the draw of gaming entertainment,” said Harris. “The growth of business travel via an enhanced and diversified economy, along with the phenomenal work to grow and maintain flights at Reno-Tahoe International Airport, is also directly contributing to the relative, sustained success.”

Reno airport officials in late April said the Reno-Tahoe International Airport now has more flights in and out of Reno than it did prior to the pandemic.

Some of the area’s major events are also back on the calendar for 2021, including the Reno Rodeo, Artown and the National Championship Air Races. Others, such as Burning Man, which the Economic Development Authority of Nevada estimates pumps at least $60 million a year into the local economy, won’t be back until 2022.

Earlier this week, Nevada’s Economic Forum also forecasted a rebound in Nevada’s tourism industry, increasing its estimate for general fund revenue by just over $586 million over the biennium. That increase was largely based on projections showing tourists’ return to the state’s casinos and resorts.

Analysts are pointing to a pent-up demand from travelers who have been largely stuck at home over the past year, along with an increase in vaccinations and a bit of extra travel budget from federal stimulus payments.

RSCVA cited data from tourism research company Destination Analysts that shows more than 70% of Americans with a propensity to travel are actively planning summer trips. The Global Business Travel Association said 41% of U.S. companies plan to resume domestic business travel in the next three months.  

Local officials also pointed to studies that show travelers are considering destinations with COVID-19 safety in mind, such as those with outdoor activities and open spaces—two things Reno-Tahoe has been marketing all along.

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