Exactitudes & Estimations

Visitor numbers for Las Vegas lead to some awe-inspiring reflections and scary implications.


In 2013, 39,668,211 people visited Las Vegas.  That’s according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, which might have an understandable interest in not undercounting visitors.  But for our purposes here, let’s take that at face value.

Now, I’m usually all right with big words, like ‘marmalade,’ but have trouble really getting big numbers.  So I look for some sort of meaningful benchmark.

With the Olympics on, my first thought is of my country.  The last time I checked, Canada’s 2013 population was 35,158,300.  Stats Canada reported this figure as an estimate, thereby exhibiting an admirable commitment to ‘transparency in government’ (that would be ‘honesty’ for anyone over, say, 55).  In any event, the use of two final zeros might have tipped us off that this figure is not an exact count, 2013 not being a census year.  

But I digress.  In hand-waving terms, what this means is that in 2013 more people visited Las Vegas than lived in Canada.  OK, I get that, although it’s hard to fathom.  I mean, what’s the impact of the population of Canada (more or less, since we’re in government-sanctioned estimating mode) descending on a city with a metropolitan population of just under 2 million?  Yikes.  If it were me hosting my proportional share and the Big Guy’s, too, I’d be glad to see the back of those 35 (estimated) to 39.668211 (exact but impossible) visitors, that’s for sure.

But let’s keep going.  What the heck, we’re here now.  The monthly figure—3,305,684 (for transparency in blogging, note that this number has been rounded down by 0.25 visitors/month)—is still hard to believe.  No single Canadian city has a population of 3 million: only metropolitan Toronto and Montreal exceed that figure.  Think of the mess it would be at Lester B. Pearson International Airport if roughly half the metro Toronto population went to Las Vegas every month.  On the other hand, think of the relief on the freeways!

So maybe we should just take it a day at a time, eh?  Well, 108,680 people (yes, yes, rounded down by 0.03 visitors/day – I never knew you folks were such sticklers for precision) visited every day.  That’s more than 1,000 airplanes landing; or 25,000 cars arriving, each carrying a family of four or a small-ish stag party complement.  Every day.  At some point, all these people have to leave, or you’d think the entire Las Vegas area would sink under the added weight.  I wonder who’s keeping an eye on that?  I can hear the knock at the hotel room door, now.

I’m sorry, sir, you and your friends will have to leave a day ahead of schedule.  Our figures show that we’ll hit our weight limit for the metropolitan area with this morning’s five-hundredth flight arrival.  Leave now; we’ll send your luggage to you.  There’s really no time to lose.

What?  Does that sound incredible?  Unbelievable?  Well, you might be right.  But in a world in which 39,668,211 people visit Las Vegas in any year, pretty much anything can happen.  Of course, that’s only my estimate.

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10 Comments

Filed under New Perspectives

10 Responses to Exactitudes & Estimations

  1. Jim Robertson

    Wonder how many people (no need for fractions/decimals) watched the Gold medal hockey game today?

    • Isabel Gibson

      Jim R – Well, take the population of Canada, subtract those under 5 and those in Las Vegas . . . But wait, someone has actual numbers on which to form an estimate. Is there anything that isn’t on the net?

      • Jim Robertson

        Quoting someone…

        Some numbers to ponder in that regard. CBC’s telecast of Friday’s men’s hockey semifinal between Canada and the United States drew an audience of more than 15 million, which is just under half the Canadian population. Of that total, some 3.8 million watched a live online stream, the highest yet for a live event on CBC.

        It was more of the same Thursday for the women’s hockey gold-medal game — a dramatic 3-2 overtime victory for Canada over the U.S. (our neighbours to the south are probably more than tired of that storyline by now). Nearly 13 million Canadians watched at least part of that contest, with a reach of 3.1 million online.

  2. Jim Taylor

    Precisely. I agree with you 99.416378452 per cent. Back in Grade 7 or 8 or so, I discovered that I could get better marks in geography by drawing a map of BC with a really squiggly coastline. The fact that it bore little resemblance to the actual islands and inlets that littered the coast apparently didn’t matter to my teacher — it was a closer approximation to reality than the massive averaging of the coastline used by other students. Numbers are no more accurate than verbal descriptions; they just give the impression of being so.
    Jim

    • Isabel Gibson

      Jim T – I’d say that numbers are often more exact than words, but not always more meaningful, especially without context. But I like your squiggly coastline, exact or not.

  3. Ah…Like my minor irritation with attendance stats. Hometown example: over a million people visited the Stampede. If I went twice, I morphed into two people, according to the statistics. Theatre attendance is probably somewhat more accurate, as people usually see a play only once in a run, although there are exceptions.

    • Isabel Gibson

      Judith – Yes – lies, damned lies, and what the heck was the third thing? Oh yes, statistics. This must be a classic case of caveat emptor, where the buyer in this case is the user of data. Just exactly how do they define/measure visitors? I expect that information is buried somewhere on the site. As for the Stampede’s approach, measuring visits and reporting it as visitors, maybe we can take some inspiration from that and think of ourselves as ‘new’ every morning!

  4. John Whitman

    Isabel,
    More fun with figures or is it UFI?
    A friend of mine recently had to go to NYC on business and meet with a company with offices on Manhattan Island. When he commented on the density of pedestrian traffic in NYC he was told that approximately 3,000,000 people commute onto and off of the Island of Manhattan every work day. Picture 3 times the entire population of the NCC (men, women and children) commuting to work each day and all funnelling into one small area.
    Just goes to prove that while Canada may be a big country, it has a really small population density, unless you count all those gophers out on the Prairies.
    John W

    • Isabel Gibson

      John – OMG. Hard to imagine. We have enough trouble getting a fraction of our population into and out of the downtown core every workday. I guess all those movie shots of NYC’s packed sidewalks actually show it like it is. Sort of makes Western Canada’s towns – gophers and all – look pretty good to me by comparison.