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Vegas attack likely to cast temporary shadow on tourism

Thursday, October 05, 2017

LAS VEGAS, United States (AFP) — The attack that left 58 people dead in Las Vegas could impact America's tourism capital, but only in the short term, experts say, predicting a full recovery within months.

The iconic Vegas Strip, lined with glitzy hotels, casinos and neon signs, still had a heavy police presence on Wednesday, a stark reminder of Sunday night's tragedy — the worst mass shooting in US history.

Some stores carried signs that read "Vegas Strong" and traffic was light.

"The attack should affect tourism badly in the short-term as the memories remain fresh and vivid in people's minds," said Federico Guerrero, an associate professor of economics at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Neha Singh, an associate professor in hospitality management at California State Polytechnic University said there was no doubt the attack would affect the tourism industry which is vital for the city.

"News like this is devastating and plays on your mind especially for tourism and decisions that are based on discretionary spending," she told AFP. "Any place that sees an event like this will see an impact of people not comfortable to travel there."

Some 43 million people visit the so-called Sin City every year, contributing to the nearly $60 billion in economic activity generated by the tourism sector, according to a study by Las Vegas-based Applied Analysis.

And Sunday's attack, experts say, may turn away potential travellers concerned about safety or not keen on partying in a city still reeling from the carnage.

Hotels, meanwhile, will have to come up with new security protocols to reassure guests, given the ease with which the suspect behind the shooting — Stephen Paddock — managed to assemble his large arsenal of weapons in his suite at the Mandalay Bay hotel from which he carried out the carnage.

Several experts said while the attack may cast a sombre mood on tourism in the coming months, it is not likely to affect conferences, 22,000 of which are held annually in the city and often booked years in advance.

They also pointed out that people are increasingly growing numb to such attacks which become less remarkable as they happen more and more frequently.

The city of Orlando, in Florida, where a gunman killed 49 people at a nightclub in 2016, enjoyed a record number of tourists that same year, for example.

The French capital Paris, which suffered from a series of terror attacks in 2015, is also on track to welcome a record number of visitors this year as tourists shake off terror fears.

And Vegas is expected to rebound the same.

Paul Wurzer and his wife Sonia, both 36, flew into Las Vegas from their home in the suburbs of Minneapolis on Tuesday night and were enjoying the early morning sun dappling an outdoor dining area at fast food eatery Shake Shack, on the Strip.

"We woke up in the morning and she saw it on the news first, and came and said, 'Oh my God, there's this mass shooting in Vegas. Are all the flights going to be cancelled? Can we go? Do we want to go still?'" said Paul.

"There were a lot of things going through our minds as far as being afraid to go."

His wife said after talking it over, they decided "this might actually be the safest time to go because of increased police presence and security."

Erick Fulps, a booking agent with Adventures International on the Las Vegas Strip, which arranges sightseeing and adventure tours, as well as shows, said he hasn't seen much of a dip in business so far.

"The next day was still busy — it didn't slow down, it was actually one of my busiest days. The day after was a little slow," said the 47-year-old father-of-three, a Los Angeles native who has lived in Vegas for the last 27 years.

"People still came in to do tours, have fun…," he added. "It's tragic what happened but they were still doing their vacation. Vegas doesn't stop."