Warren Buffett gets a chuckle out of the notion that attendance at annual Berkshire Hathaway meetings is rising along with his age.

The 88-year-old chief executive and chairman likened the draw — that is, shareholders coming because they don’t know how many more will spotlight Buffett and partner Charlie Munger — to a golden oldie band’s final tour.

“It’s close to the end, right?” the investment guru said of his longtime gig with 95-year-old Vice Chairman Munger. “We can get a lot of mileage out of that as long as it lasts.”

The longtime Berkshire Hathaway leader and local billionaire spoke to The World-Herald about the May shareholder activities that this year drew at least 40,000 people, and broke a couple of records.

Buffett said he still gets energized by the marathon six-hour question-and-answer sessions, and can’t get enough of the quips dished by friend and fellow financial whiz Munger.

He’s counting on another episode next year of that Warren and Charlie show, calling their stage time together his favorite part of the weekend. Increasingly, shareholders say they come to see the duo while the pair still is front and center. Buffett said he’s quite aware the time will come when one or both physically won’t be up to the task.

“I hope it’s far off, I’ll put it that way.”

Though he has “cut back a little” on appearances, Buffett described a packed weekend extending beyond Saturday’s official business to friend and family parties, the shopping and vendor extravaganza, Sunday dinner at Gorat’s steakhouse and other side events.

He believes Berkshire loyalists, local and global, look forward to the walking-talking mascots, picnics and pingpong champions, as well as Berkshire companies’ unveiling styles of furniture, shoes, diamond bracelets.

Indeed, his biggest fear is losing his voice before the long weekend is over, from talking more and louder than usual.

“That’s the one thing I get terrified about,” Buffett said. “It’s been close a few times.”

Here are signs of growth, even as shareholders for the last four years also have had the option of livestreaming the meeting. Yahoo Finance before this year’s meeting reported the number of streams has grown from 11.5 million in 2016 and 17 million in 2017 to 35 million in 2018.

  • The number of Omaha hotel rooms occupied during the long weekend went up over last year by more than 3 percent. On both Friday and Saturday, more than 90 percent of the rooms in the city were full, according to travel research firm STR Inc., which tracks hotel trends and data for the local convention and visitors bureau.
  • Twice as many annual meeting tickets were mailed to shareholders this year compared with 10 years ago. New in recent years is the two-for-$5 ticket offer on eBay, which Buffett said was started only because people had been scalping tickets. About 4,250 tickets were sold this year pursuant to the eBay offer.
  • The number of Friday shoppers at the CHI Health Center, where dozens of Berkshire companies sell or show wares, rose from 13,111 in 2015 to this year’s record 16,188.
  • Online room-sharing service Airbnb did not have final stats for this year, but officials believe 2019 will represent a surge over the previous Berkshire investors conference. Airbnb said that last year, hosts earned a total of about $250,000 for lodging more than 1,300 guests during the weekend of Berkshire’s meeting and the University of Nebraska at Omaha graduation.
  • Eppley Airfield officials reported a 12 percent rise in the number of available airplane seats for Thursday through Monday of this year’s meeting, compared with a similar stretch last year, and a nearly 8 percent rise in the number of flights going in and out of Omaha.

A gauge of the Berkshire gathering’s global reach comes from an Omaha company that counts media mentions from around the world.

Todd Murphy, chief executive of Universal Information Services, said the number of “media mentions” tracked by his firm on a variety of outlets including TV, radio, newspaper and online sources increased by about 50 percent compared with last year.

He said the combined keywords of Omaha, Warren Buffett and Berkshire appeared in 8,512 stories or social media posts from May 2 through May 6. That’s up 2,887 over last year’s 5,625 mentions, he said.

Murphy attributes some of the increase to the expanded number of media outlets his company monitors, along with the additional online outfits that covered the 2019 event.

As was the case in recent years, said Murphy, about half the overall Berkshire publicity that weekend was generated from within the United States. Germany had the next most media mentions, followed by the United Kingdom, Canada, India, Australia, France.

On the other end, his research showed, Liechtenstein aired just two stories about Berkshire festivities; Zimbabwe, one.

In terms of international coverage, Murphy said, the Berkshire meeting generates more than any other local event.

Keith Backsen, executive director of Visit Omaha, the local convention and visitors bureau, said the exposure boosts recruitment of other events and drives commerce for area restaurants, hotels and tourist attractions.

“When a city proves it can hold a successful event for one of the richest men in the world and 40,000 of his closest friends from across the globe, that helps us sell Omaha to other meeting groups,” Backsen said.

Berkshire Hathaway reported an attendance dip of about 10 percent when livestreaming first started, but that also was the year after a special 50th celebration when attendance peaked. The company says the numbers have rebounded.

Buffett says he’s gotten positive feedback from many shareholders who appreciate the broadcast, and calls it a “perfect balance.”

Except for a brief spell before Berkshire security reunited two lost kids with parents, Buffett said, this year’s activities went smoothly overall.

He recalled a few not-so-good incidents in the past, though one fainting spell for a Canadian woman led to an ongoing friendship with Buffett’s wife, Astrid. He said they still get together for dinner when the woman is in town.

His own schedule during the weekend starts on Thursday. There is a “whole bunch of parties,” but Buffett said he makes a point to get to bed by 8 p.m. Friday to be fresh for official Saturday business.

Among his can’t-miss parties is an annual “Buffett clan” reunion at a hotel and a restaurant get-together with daughter Susie and the “Breaking Bad” group.

Sunday, the chief executive meets Berkshire directors for dinner at Gorat’s steakhouse, but before that he drops in for shareholder festivities at Borsheims Fine Jewelry. He said he no longer steps behind the counter to offer “crazy Warren prices,” as it disrupted the flow of the store.

“At the request of management, I turned in my badge,” Buffett said.

Early Monday, Buffett spends three hours on the set of a broadcast outlet, but this year dropped another he used to do afterward. He said he wraps up the long weekend around noon.

Of Munger, Buffett said the vice chairman capped off Saturday business with a 45-minute broadcast interview and later went to a party.

“We’re having a good time,” Buffett said. “The shareholders are having a good time. We think Omaha has a good time, so we’ll keep doing it.”

Berkshire Hathaway Inc. owns the Omaha World-Herald.