The R.V.:

New McCarran terminal among tourism highlights for 2012

A United Airlines passenger jet is shown on the ground as a Southwest jet takes off at McCarran International Airport on Dec. 9, 2011.

Richard N. Velotta

Richard N. Velotta

VEGAS INC Coverage

Here at the Sun and its business publication, VEGAS INC, we like to look forward instead of backward.

With that in mind, here are some of the top tourism news stories you’ll be seeing in 2012.

Airline shuffles. The airline industry has always been turbulent, with fuel costs, the state of the economy, labor, overregulation and high taxes figuring prominently in a company’s operational strategy.

Airlines are crucial to the Las Vegas tourism economy, and their operations and strategies provide us with leading indicators on how many people will visit the city.

Fortunately, most of the airline news should be good for Las Vegas in 2012.

Southwest, McCarran International Airport’s busiest carrier, will add Atlanta to its route map and continue to integrate AirTran into the company. The company, one of the strongest financially in the industry, may add lift to Mexico, either on its own planes or through its Mexican partner, Volaris, or to Hawaii and the Caribbean.

Southwest also will add larger aircraft, Boeing 737-800 jets, to its fleet, and CEO Gary Kelly has indicated Las Vegas will see some of the bigger planes here.

Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air is expected to add Hawaii to its route map next year, but how that will play out for Las Vegas remains to be seen. But let’s face it: A healthy Allegiant is good news for the city.

The dark clouds on the horizon: What the American Airlines bankruptcy will mean to Las Vegas, how the blending of Continental and United will affect routes here and the continued reduction of US Airways flights to and from McCarran.

Terminal 3. It’s been sitting out there at McCarran like an unopened Christmas present.

The airport’s new Terminal 3 will be the newest airport facility in the nation and one of the first to open in the post-911 era.

What it means for Las Vegas could be huge.

T3 opens the door to more international visitors as the city will now be able to accommodate additional flights simultaneously.

Couple the terminal’s opening with Brand USA’s efforts to market the United States abroad, more deliveries and use of the Boeing 787 jet by more airlines and progress in efforts to ease visa restrictions in China and Brazil and you have a formula for bulking up financially lucrative international travel.

There certainly will be a learning curve on T3, but it will be worth it when the doors open in June.

DesertXpress. Love it or hate it, it’s almost groundbreaking time for the high-speed rail line between Las Vegas and Southern California.

Click to enlarge photo

An artist’s rendering of a train on the XpressWest high-speed rail line, formerly DesertXpress.

With several government agencies signing off on the project in 2011, the next big hurdle is securing the $5 billion loan to begin engineering and construction.

DesertXpress officials had indicated that work was likely to begin in 2011, but the process is lengthy and the details are great.

Tourism economy. Expect another leap forward in visitor volume, airport passenger traffic, convention visitors, occupancy rates and room rates in 2012.

With some luck, Las Vegas could pull close to the record 39.2 million visitors it had in 2007.

The city won’t have the benefit of the attendance boost provided by March’s ConExpo-Con/Ag show next year, but meetings planners across the city have reported good bookings for shows in 2012.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is projecting an increase of just 640 new hotel rooms next year with the opening of five nongaming hotels. That means occupancy has the potential of climbing and room demand producing higher rates.

The downside of no new resorts in the development pipeline is that new properties tend to generate more visits to the city.

What will happen to the stalled Fontainebleau and Echelon projects? Maybe 2012 will provide some answers.

Online gaming. The Justice Department dealt the gaming industry an interesting hand last month. Remember everything that had been said about the Wire Act prohibiting Internet poker play? Forget about that — it only applies to sports wagering.

Now, there could be a scramble by lawmakers, either to regulate online poker play or to prohibit it.

Most industry leaders want the federal regulation, but Las Vegas Sands Chairman Sheldon Adelson believes online play can’t be properly enforced.

Look for some swift changes in 2012 to prevent an onslaught of offshore companies dominating the market.

Real Estate


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  1. Good point, DesertDays. One of the benefits of the opening of Terminal 3 is that passengers will be able to access the D gates from there. It's going to take some education on the new access, but the choke point resulting from maintenance on the trams should be minimized significantly in June-July.