The first signals of easing COVID-19 caseloads emerged during the past month, and improvements are being reflected in the latest government-imposed restrictions. Despite the generally slow-moving reopening plans, recent measures will be a big step for much of Nevada’s traditional high-density industries, which have historically been a cornerstone of the state economy and tourism industry. A modest raise in occupancy limits now allows most businesses as well as public gatherings to host 35 percent of their capacity. This number is expected to jump to 50 percent in mid-March if the current infection trajectory is maintained. Additionally, entertainment venues are reopening to the public with a number of properties making the necessary logistical changes to welcome back audiences. Notably, the Vegas Golden Knights have been approved to allow up to 2,600 fans at T-Mobile Arena starting on March 1. These new practices will assist the leisure and hospitality sector, which has been the most affected industry over the past year. As the COVID-19 vaccination rate continues to rise, the momentum toward larger allowed gatherings is expected to carry further into 2021.

Nevada was initially hit harder than any other state by the pandemic due to the region’s relative dependence on travel and tourism, and year-end visitation figures confirm the challenges the industry continues to face. In 2020, Nevada welcomed 23 million visitors, down 53.8 percent compared to the prior year. This was the lowest number in nearly three decades. Moreover, convention attendance, a traditionally large source of spending in Southern Nevada, witnessed an annual decline of 74 percent, falling to 1.7 million from 6.6 million the previous year. Additionally, airport passenger volumes were down 57 percent in 2020 when compared to the prior year. However, the drive-in segment of the industry was down a more modest 12 percent and remains a critical component to help sustain a baseline of visitation from which future gains can be realized as coronavirus caseloads diminish.

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