Economic Woes Hit CES as Hotels Slash Rates

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The International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas normally means more than just the latest gadgets. It also involves long taxi lines and high rates for hotel that you have to book months in advance.

Well, perhaps not in 2009. While a cavalcade of high-tech toys is almost assured, many of the biggest hotels in Las Vegas still have open rooms for CES week and some are even reducing prices.

On Thursday the show organizers e-mailed some registered attendees informing them that more than 10 hotels have "slashed" their room rates for CES, which will take place from Jan. 8 to 11.

Discounts are greater at more expensive hotels, with the Mandalay Bay, one of the furthest major hotels from the Las Vegas Convention Center, cutting rates Jan. 7 to 10 to US$229 from US$314 and on Jan. 11 by more than half to $146. The neighboring Excalibur hotel has cut rates to $141 from $219.

Aside from the reduced room rates just about every other well-known hotel in the city has rooms available, said the show organizers. The long list includes the Las Vegas Hilton, which sits next to the Convention Center, and the Venetian hotel, which is part of the Sands Expo complex where some of the event also takes place.

CES this year attracted 141,150 attendees, which was down by about 2,000 from 2007. Not only is the global economic slowdown expected to hit travel budgets at many companies, but international visitors, which made up 20 percent of this year's visitors, are also getting hit by the strong U.S. dollar, which makes everything more expensive for visitors from overseas.

In the first nine months of this year Las Vegas has seen a 2.5 percent drop in the number of total visitors but trade show visitors are down 3.9 percent, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

The figures for September, the latest month for which data is available, show an even steeper decline on 2007.

Convention attendance was down 10 percent in the month compared with last year as the number of events held dropped 17.5 percent. Just over 84 percent of hotel rooms were occupied in September compared with 91 percent in 2007 and the average room rate was $112.58, down from $142.47 last year.

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