Wednesday, March 12, 2014 | 5:10 p.m.
International travelers flying into Las Vegas can look forward to shorter wait times thanks to the addition of new customs agents at McCarran International Airport.
About 3 million passengers flew into Las Vegas on international flights last year, and although most only had to wait an average of 20 minutes to get through customs, others waited in line for up to an hour when the airport was especially crowded.
The new customs agents at McCarran’s Terminal 3 are expected to help reduce waits during those high-traffic peaks while also giving the airport needed staff to keep up with growth of international tourism to the city.
“Las Vegas has never been more popular among international travelers, and the presence of these new officers will help us provide a world-class welcome,” Clark County Director of Aviation Rosemary Vassiliadis said during a Wednesday press call announcing the staffing increase.
Las Vegas currently gets 190 weekly nonstop flights inbound from more than 20 foreign cities and has seen its international passenger traffic increase by 41 percent over the past four years, Vassiliadis said.
Altogether, about 7 million international tourists visit Las Vegas by car or plane each year, generating $12 billion in economic impact. Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority President Rossi Ralenkotter said foreign travelers tend to stay longer and spend more, which is why his agency is working to double the number of international visitors over the next decade. Funding for the new customs agents was included in the omnibus spending bill approved by Congress in January with the backing of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Several airports across the country including Las Vegas will be adding more agents as a result of a budget increase for U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.
“These new officers will shorten the customs process and allow tourists to use their time spending money and enjoying the many attractions we have rather than waiting in line at the airport,” Reid said Wednesday.