In 2008, the Clark County Commission took a big gamble on whether to go ahead with a $2.4 billion expansion to what was then known as McCarran International Airport.
But with the Great Recession beginning to wreak havoc on the local economy, there was real concern about whether adding 14 doors and spending billions of dollars was the right thing to do.
But the commissioners went ahead.
The new facility, known as Terminal 3, got the green light and on June 27, 2012 – 10 years ago on Monday – the doors opened to what would become Las Vegas’ new port of entry for foreign travellers.
“T3 was a big gamble when it was approved because we were in the depths of the Great Recession,” said Brendan Bussmann, founder of Las Vegas-based B Global. “County management took the risk and it has largely paid off in helping to grow the destination, especially allowing additional international guests to have the right arrival experience.”
And the investment paid off.
“Investment in T3 has proven itself time and time again,” Clark County Aviation Department Director Rosemary Vassiliadis said in an interview.
“You remember we had to go to the board and make a very tough decision on whether to go ahead with this project in 2008 when everything was falling apart,” she said. declared. “We had started design and preliminary work in 2005 and the contract was signed in 2006. And all I could say (after the commission voted) was, ‘Oh my God, thank God.’
Josh Swissman, founding partner of the Las Vegas-based Strategy Organization, said attracting international travelers is key because they spend more time in the city and spend more than their domestic counterparts.
“A decade later, the new terminal – although it doesn’t feel like it right now because there isn’t a ton of international travel – seems like a pretty fitting addition to the airport to facilitate the comings and goings of the international traveler, who is a fairly significant traveler to the destination,” Swissman said.
Vassiliadis said since opening the airport, now Harry Reid International, has seen 125 million passengers travel to and from 146 cities with operations to 19 countries.
“The opening of Terminal 3 has helped firmly establish our airport as a truly international destination,” said Amanda Bellarmino, assistant professor at UNLV’s William F. Harrah College of Hospitality. “It helped increase the number of flights to the city, which continues to grow today, and helped modernize our airport in a way that was badly needed. Las Vegas’ ability to handle the increased of air traffic is of paramount importance for the hospitality sector and the taxes that this sector generates.
While Vassiliadis said Terminal 3’s international component is the largest – seven of the 14 gates are dedicated to international arrivals – Terminal 3 was also important to the airport’s overall capacity. Congestion that had grown at Terminal 1 has spread through Terminal 3’s other seven gates which are dedicated to domestic carriers and provide easy access to the 44 D gates.
“It gave us the flexibility to host more operations than we ever imagined,” Vassiliadis said. “It gave us airport capacity in one of the tightest areas we had.”
That meant additional pickup and drop-off space — Terminal 3 is about half a mile long — and less congestion at Transportation Security Administration security checkpoints by splitting traffic between Terminals 1 and 3.
Vassiliadis said the benefits of Terminal 3 will be even greater in the future as international traffic picks up, especially with the special events Las Vegas has on the horizon. While football matches at Allegiant Stadium are likely to attract their fair share of international attention, Vassiliadis said planning is already underway for the November 2023 Formula 1 car race in Las Vegas. Race cars should be flown to the airport as cargo. Race fans should be drawn to Las Vegas from around the world for the event with the possibility of charter flights just for this event.
The county has already announced it is acquiring land on the west side of the airport for additional general aviation space to accommodate fly-in fans on business jets for Formula 1 and the Super Bowl of 2024.
Half a million international arrivals
Reid officials say just over 15 million passengers entered and exited the airport in the first four months of 2022, a 74.6% increase from the first four months of 2021. Among of these, 548,813 were international arrivals, an increase of 603.9% over the last year.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority released the estimated number of international arrivals to Las Vegas on Friday. There were just under 1 million arrivals in 2021, down 13.8% from 2020. He hopes to see a return to 2014’s record arrivals level of just under 6 million passengers.
Most of those arrivals – around 3 million – were from Canada and Mexico. The other main countries from which tourists arrived were the United Kingdom, Germany, Brazil, South Korea and Australia.
The LVCVA acknowledged that Terminal 3 was responsible for much of the city’s growth in international tourism.
“The arrival of T3 provided the critical infrastructure needed to help Vegas grow and attract more visitors,” said Lori Nelson-Kraft, senior vice president of communications for the LVCVA.
Swissman noted that the Biden administration’s plan to lift its requirement that international air travelers to the United States take a COVID-19 test within a day of boarding their flights will help increase visits to Las Vegas.
“I don’t know if it will be like turning off the tap not being on full blast at all, but it will certainly help the slow and steady increase in international travel returning to its destination,” he said. .
Bussmann added that Terminal 3’s foresight will help the COVID-19 malaise return.
“As we continue to recover from the pandemic, the recovery of T3 is just beginning as we begin to return to the international segment,” Bussmann said.
“Hopefully the current geopolitical and economic headwinds do not restrict our recent ability to fully reopen these markets. T3 gives us the opportunity to bring additional operators and international routes into the market and hopefully expand the base to other destinations in Europe and Asia. There is an opportunity to help us reach these new market segments, but without the foresight of T3, we would not be in the position we are in today to explore these opportunities.