Staycations Yield to Vegas, Margaritaville: Sure Rebound Signs

Photograph by Ronda Churchill/Bloomberg

The Strip in Las Vegas, Nevada.

DJ Steve Aoki sprayed champagne on attendees before selecting some to surf the crowd on an inflatable raft during opening week of the Hakkasan night club in Las Vegas last month.

The five-story, $100 million-plus addition to the MGM Grand symbolizes a revival of the unbridled partying Sin City was known for before the real-estate bust turned Las Vegas into the foreclosure capital of the U.S. It also created 500 jobs in a state that had an unemployment rate of 9.7 percent in March, the highest in the nation.

“The domestic customer is coming back, they’re spending a bit more money,” MGM Resorts International Chairman and Chief Executive Officer James Murren said in a telephone interview. “When you see a strong housing number, that bodes very well. People feel they’re wealthy.”

Years of dipping in backyard pools and exploring neighborhood festivals during so-called summer staycations are over. New attractions, such as Walt Disney Co.’s Cars Land at its California Adventure Park in Anaheim, California, or Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, a beach-front casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, may again draw crowds as Americans feel more secure in their jobs and home prices rebound.

Home prices climbing at the fastest pace since 2006 are helping repair household finances, while unemployment at a four-year low of 7.5 percent boosts confidence. The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index reached a five-year high in the week ended April 28.

With travel expenditures projected to increase 3.6 percent this year, faster than economic growth, the share of gross domestic product coming from the industry may approach 3 percent in 2013, up from about 2.7 percent in 2010, David M. Huether, vice president for research at the U.S. Travel Association, said in an interview. The world’s largest economy is forecast to expand 2 percent this year, according to the median estimate of 81 economists surveyed by Bloomberg.

Orlando, Florida, New York and Los Angeles are among this year’s top visitor destinations, Simon Bramley, Travelocity.com Inc. vice president for transportation and lodging, said in a telephone interview.

“We saw people traveling further from home,” said Travelocity’s Bramley. “The austerity years of the staycation are behind us at this point.”

See the full report on Staycations fading, at Bloomberg.com.

Christopher Palmeri contributed reporting. 

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