Data Viz Done Right

November 3, 2019

#MakeoverMonday: Is Las Vegas Convention Attendance a Recession Indicator?

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Tableau Conference is headed to Vegas shortly, so I thought for Makeover Monday week 45 we should look at data about visitors to Las Vegas. The original viz comes from Calculated Risk:

SOURCE: Calculated Risk

What works well?
  • The time goes from oldest to latest.
  • The colors are easy to distinguish.
  • The axes are well labeled.
  • Including the caveat for 2019 since it's not a complete year in the data.

What could be improved?
  • The axes aren't synchronized; I'd like to see how they would look synchronized.
  • Without referring back to the color legend, I don't know which axis goes with which metric.
  • Using a dual axis chart implies there's a correlation between the two measures. There might be, but it could be displayed other way to make that more evident.
  • There no indicator of the data source.

What I did
I started by reading the original blog post. What caught my attention in particular was the last sentence:
Historically, declines in Las Vegas visitor traffic have been associated with economic weakness, so the slight declines over the last two years was concerning.

Super interesting! So this is where my worked started. I first annualized the data to make 2019 comparable to the rest of the years. From there, I created a connected scatterplot, which takes the two metrics in the original chart, plots one on the x-axis and the other on the y-axis, and connect the points by the year. This lead to a swirly look at the end, which made the relationship difficult to understand.

Instead, I chose to focus on the "red" line of the original, i.e., convention visitors. I wanted to see if convention visitors was indeed a recession indicator. The chart was simple to make, then some googling turned up the recession dates. Low and behold, convention visitors to Vegas sure do look like a leading indicator for a recession. If this is true, then we're on the verge of a recession very soon.

Click on the image for the interactive version.

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