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Greg Spin

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From basketball tournament fans, to vaccinated tourists, to Americans looking to escape isolation — the sheer size of crowds coming to Las Vegas over the past week has exceeded March expectations.

The NCAA basketball tournament, traditionally a big deal for Las Vegas, also falls along the same timeframe as spring break for many schools.

From seniors to parents, many visitors are turning this holiday week into a grand getaway. The timing comes as millions more Americans are getting vaccinated every day and travel continues to grow.

“I don’t think anyone knew [about the turnout], but now that it’s happened, it all makes sense,” said Alan Feldman, a distinguished fellow at the UNLV International Gaming Institute, and former MGM Resorts vice president for 20 years. “Las Vegas is ‘America’s Playground.’ They can come 365 days a year, and it’s Saturday night every one of those days.”

He called it the first major step on the road to recovery.

Feldman advises locals that the “crowds” we see are deceiving after a year of slow business on the Las Vegas Strip and throughout the valley.

“We really are at 50%. If you go to the convention centers or meeting spaces, they are empty,” he said.