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Tourism rebounds at Reid International as plans for new airport south of Las Vegas are renewed

Reid International airport
AP Photo/John Locher, File

FILE - In this March 19, 2020, file photo a plane takes off at Reid International airport, in Las Vegas.

The pandemic hit Nevada’s travel and tourism industry hard.

There were closures, layoffs, there was a time you could ride your bike right down the middle of the Las Vegas Strip without worry of ever seeing a car or tourist.

It was bad. But it’s all coming back.

Global and domestic travel is rebounding, with Harry Reid International Airport continuing to serve as the gateway to Southern Nevada.

But more than that, planning is once again underway to build another airport south of Las Vegas.

Chris Jones is the chief marketing officer for Reid International Airport. 
“We operate as a business,” he said, so when hotel occupancy dropped below 30% amid the pandemic, the airport felt that pain, too.

He said the first customers back were leisure tourists who were able to take advantage of deals and heavily discounted room rates.

“Last year, when the vaccines really started to roll out on a widespread basis, our numbers really started to grow. Not back to the level of where we were pre-pandemic. And we're not there yet. I don't want to be misleading in that regard. But we've seen steady improvement,” he said.

In 2021, Reid had the fifth-highest volume of travelers going through TSA. As of March 14, the airport is seventh in the nation. This weekend, they’ll take another step to returning to normal by welcoming back international flights from Germany and Switzerland. 

“The other area that we're not quite back to whole yet is business travel, the conventioneers, and things like that. And I think that'll take a little bit more time to come back,” he said. Asia will be a longer haul than Europe, Jones said. 

State of Nevada host Joe Schoenmann speaks with Harry Reid International Airport’s Chief Marketing Officer Chris Jones on March 25, 2022.


John from Spring Valley called in on Friday, asking why the airport chose Reid International over Las Vegas Airport.

Jones said he thinks there was a lot of public confusion regarding how the name change happened. 

“There was a strong consensus on our board that Harry Reid was someone who had done a lot for aviation in Nevada, along with lots of other sectors for the state that he helped out during his time as a Senate Majority Leader,” Jones said.

Reid was mainly responsible for getting Terminal 3 completed amid the recession, Jones said. 

“If you drive past the airport right now, and you see the tower that the FAA air traffic controllers sit in, that was something that he was able to bring to fruition by working to get some money to come back into here. Even the new airport site … that was legislation that was led by Senator Reid in Congress to be able to get that property made available to the county, to be able to have that next phase of aviation in Southern Nevada.”


The idea of an additional airport near Jean, about 30 minutes south of the Las Vegas Valley, isn’t new, but the effort is back on after being placed on hold.

Jones said they have staff working on it every day. Because the airport would sit on 23,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management land, they’re preparing to work with the federal government to get an environmental impact statement done. 

As Southern Nevada continues to grow, Jones said it’s important to diversify the economy. “This presents a phenomenal opportunity to be able to have that in tandem with that airport out there.”

Jones said he wants the public to know they’re taking all the necessary steps so travelers can feel confident when it comes to traveling to Las Vegas. 

Chris Jones, chief marketing officer, Harry Reid International Airport

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Dave Berns, now a producer for State of Nevada, recently returned to KNPR after having previously worked for the station from 2005 to 2009.