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How Will the Las Vegas Shooting Affect Tourism?

Orlando and Paris experienced the aftereffects of mass shootings quite differently

After 64-year-old Stephen Paddock fired into a crowd of country music fans from the windows of his Las Vegas hotel suite Sunday night, killing at least 58 and injuring more than 500 others, a question about the future of the city's nearly $60 billion tourism industry is inevitable: Will the tourists come?

Cities such as Orlando and Paris experienced the aftereffects of mass shootings quite differently.

Although a gunman killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando in June 2016, the city had a record number of 68 million visitors that year, 2 million more than the year before, according to city statistics.

But the tourism industry in Paris was not so resilient after a terrorist attack that included gunmen and suicide bombers left 130 dead in November 2015.

The hotel occupancy rate fell from 77 percent to 69 percent between 2015 and 2016, when France spent the entire year under a state of emergency. The first half of this year saw somewhat of a revival, up to an occupancy rate of 72 percent, but that still left it below the usual rate, according to Statista.

A drop in tourism could be a huge hit for Las Vegas. Tourism accounts for more than 18 percent of the city’s GDP, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council. A record 42.9 million people visited the city in 2016, says the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

But travel industry experts say the city won’t be significantly affected by the mass shooting, the deadliest in modern history.

Annebeth Wijtenburg, the communications manager for the World Travel and Tourism Council, said that the group did not believe Las Vegas would be suffer in the medium to long term.

“Although this attack is unprecedented in its scale and tragic impact, we believe that travel and tourism to Las Vegas will hold up,” Wijtenburg said.

“Our experience from similar attacks shows that visitors are resilient when it comes to this kind of isolated incident and do not relate it to the destination,” she added.

International travelers may be of concern, as they make up a large chunk of Las Vegas tourism and may be scared off by relatively lax American gun laws.

Nineteen percent of tourists to Las Vegas in 2016 came from outside the U.S. And although international visitors gamble less than American ones, they spend a lot more overall, on average 88 percent more on non-gambling expenses.

Olivier Jager, CEO of ForwardKeys, a travel intelligence firm that predicts travel patterns by analyzing bookings, said an initial wave of cancelations and a decrease in bookings in Las Vegas is likely.

“However, one would expect to see a different magnitude of response between a terrorist incident, where a threat could be ongoing, and an assault by a lone individual who is shot dead, where the threat is eliminated,” Jager said.

In the case of Paris, the November attack was part of a string of attacks in France and neighboring countries, including a shooting at the offices of a Paris newspaper earlier that year, bombings in Belgium the next spring, and a cargo truck mowing down a crowd in Nice in southern France during the 2016 Bastille Day celebrations in July.

How long Las Vegas takes to recover will depend on media coverage of the aftermath and the ability of authorities to convey a sense of improved security, he said.

Because Las Vegas has a reputation as a safe city with effective law enforcement and venue security, there should be no long-term effects on overall tourism, Bjorn Hanson, a professor at New York University’s Jonathan M. Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

“There is likely to be some short-term effect on tourism, not as much because of concerns about safety, but because the sadness is in conflict with the desire of many leisure travelers for pleasure and relaxation, although some of that effect will be offset by travelers showing their courage and their support for the community,” Hanson said.

Marko Greisen, founder and CEO of Galavantier, a technology-based travel company specializing in Las Vegas nightlife and daylife, said he did not think such attacks would keep people away.

“I think people are going to continue on with their life, but they are going to be much more aware of their surroundings,” he said.

Las Vegas plays host to national and international conferences nearly every day. So far, conference organizers don’t seem deterred by the shooting.

The Global Gaming Expo, an international gaming trade show scheduled to run from Oct. 3 to Oct. 5, has opened and is continuing as planned.

“The gaming industry is a tight-knit community and Las Vegas is the beating heart of our operations,” Geoff Freeman, president and CEO of the American Gaming Association, said in a joint statement with Hervé Sedky, president of Reed Exhibitions Americas. “The AGA and Reed Exhibitions will offer our full assistance as the city recovers, and will honor the victims of this tragic event.”

The gaming event has 26,000 visitors each year, according to its website.

“We continue to monitor the situation and safety remains our priority,” the statement said.

The IMEX America conference, scheduled for Oct. 10 to Oct. 12 at the Sands Expo and Convention Center and which usually draws about 12,000 people, will also go ahead.

“We are shocked and saddened at the events that have taken place in Las Vegas recently,” Carina Bauera, CEO of IMEX Group, said in a statement. “Over the coming days we will be working closely with the Sands, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and the Las Vegas authorities to assess any additional security measures that are needed at this time.”

MGM Resorts International, the owner of the Mandalay Bay hotel, from which Paddock shot concertgoers across the street, saw its stock fall 5.6 percent Monday, CNBC reported. MGM Resorts International did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The mayor of Las Vegas was optimistic about the city’s recovery.

"This has been a resilient community," Mayor Carolyn Goodman said on NBC’s “Today” show Tuesday morning. “We will not be defined by this sick, disgusting human being.”

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