Las Vegas appears to be a very popular destination for many Canadians but its appeal to most of them can be attributed to the presence of live winter sports such as hockey and curling rather than the famous casinos on the Strip. In fact, Canadians account for the majority of all foreign visitors in Las Vegas, official data reveals.
Interestingly, Las Vegas remains a more popular gambling and tourist destination for U.S. citizens than it is for foreigners. This becomes clear in the latest statistics from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, which regularly publishes figures and data analysis regarding visitation numbers, visitor profiles, tourism numbers, and more. According to the latest report of the authority, around 84 percent of the visitors to the city in 2017 were from the United States, while foreigners were only 16 percent. And the majority of these foreign visitors come from Canada, an average of 1.44 million people every year, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) says.
The major reason for this fact, however, is not gambling. The city’s greatest appeal to Canadians is its rich schedule of live winter sports events. In combination with the warmer climate and relative proximity, Las Vegas has become a popular destination for Canadian sports fans who are able to watch their favourite team, visit a show, and then, hit the casino floor. Many of these visitors originate from Canada’s most western provinces, according to Vegas Golden Knights chief marketing officer Brian Killingsworth. Huge crowds from Western Canada were coming to the city throughout the season, the ice hockey team official admits.
It is important to point out that seven Canadian teams are currently playing in the National Hockey League (NHL), namely Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators, Winnipeg Jets, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks. Although no Canadian club has won the Stanley Cup in the past 25 years, many fans still travel with their favourite teams for the season. Data from the LVCVA also shows that 54 percent of all Canadian direct air passengers to Las Vegas originate from Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary. The introduction of winter sports in the city just made its offerings more diverse and appealing to hockey and curling-loving Canadians.
Visitors from Western Canada are “vital” for Las Vegas, LVCVA’s director of sports marketing and special events Lisa Motley admits while speaking to the National Post. Many sports fans come from the western provinces, but it is not just hockey that draws thousands of Canadians to Las Vegas. Curling has become extremely popular in recent years and its success in the city can be seen as quite unusual at first, considering Las Vegas is practically in the middle of the desert. But it can be explained by the increasing numbers of fans coming from Canada.
The men’s world curling championship in April gathered some of the world’s best curlers to the city and, needless to say, it attracted a lot of fans from Canada. According to championship event manager Jon Killoran, around 75 to 80 percent of all tickets were purchased by Canadians. Since its beginning in 2002, the World Financial Group Continental Cup of Curling has been held in several venues across Canada. The only host city outside the country has been Las Vegas and in January 2019, the Cup will be played in the city for the fourth time.
The main reason for the popularity of curling in Las Vegas is the Canadian fan base, Killoran believes. The city’s addition of an NFL team in 2020 and the possibility of an NBA club in the near future certainly makes Nevada quite appealing to Canadians, especially in the winter months, when Canada’s leagues are not active due to the cold weather.