Coming to CES? Hope you have a room!

crowd at CES 2011

The crowd was pretty thick at CES in 2011 (pictured). Looks like even more will attend this year.

Once again, it’s time to get ready for the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Over the years, I’ve learned to predict attendance based on Las Vegas hotel rates. During the worst of the recession, room rates started at a normal price and went down as the show drew closer. Sure enough, attendance declined. Last year, rooms started a little high and stayed there. Attendance was back to pre-recession levels. This year, it’s crazy.

Every official CES hotel is sold out, at least at the CES rate. The big hotels on the strip are available, but at a price. Per night, the Mirage is $674, the MGM Grand is $613, and even the lowly (but convenient) Riviera is $499.

Downtown used to be a safe haven; the official CES buses don’t go there, but the city bus (#108) does. A few years ago, I had a nice room at the Fremont for $40/night. Now it’s sold out. The Golden Nugget is available at $284/night. Even the Four Queens is $229/night.

This all means two things. First, if you’re coming, I hope you already lined up a reasonable hotel rate. Second, attendance at CES will be incredible. Last year’s crowd was enough to reduce Las Vegas to a snail’s pace. There were long, long lines for cabs, at monorail stations, and at most restaurants. This year will probably be worse. Have fun, but be prepared.

(If you do still need a room, the best under $100/night right now looks like Sam’s Town, which has a shuttle to Harrahs. From there, you can hope to get on the monorail to the convention center, or you can walk across the strip to the Mirage, where you can catch a CES bus.)