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Sun Peaks and Colorado’s resorts setting an example

Successful air services rely on partnerships

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"It’s very much a community-driven thing because various stakeholders within the community have all jumped on board and have offered financial assistance, which is what it requires."

With so many people in the community involved in the expansion of the airport there is an enormous incentive for residents to use the airline services.

"The norm in an airline deal is that you guarantee a number of seats and you go for it, so it’s an incentive for the community to really try and drive seats on that airline," said Nicolson.

"Just like us, Tourism Whistler, Whistler-Blackcomb and the hotel properties all know that Seattle is a key market and they all know that direct flights into Seattle and into Pemberton is a market just waiting to be tapped.

"We (Tourism Sun Peaks and Sun Peaks Resort Corporation) were fortunate that the City of Kamloops and partners in Kamloops were very keen to increase air traffic.

"It was a partnership that was successful because we lifted about 8,400 people last year in our first year."

A similar situation exists in Colorado, in particular Vail, where the resort has been guaranteeing seats for airlines to fly into the Eagle County Regional airport since 1989.

According to Allen Best from the Vail Daily, approximately 40 per cent of the out-of-state skiing visitors to the resorts of Vail and Beaver Creek fly into Eagle County and the remainder fly into Denver International.

What makes Eagle County significant is the fact that the skiers who use that airport are statistically high-end customers that stay for longer and spend more.

The popularity of Eagle County has grown such that Vail Resorts is now petitioning the community to guarantee airline seats.

Such community funding for winter flights is already common practice at several ski areas, including Telluride, Crested Butte, and Jackson Hole.

Steamboat Springs adopted this community-based funding strategy about 10 years ago. There the ski company posts about 60 per cent of the guarantees, and the community about 40 per cent.

Another significant aid smaller airports have in attracting investors and competing with the major airports is that smaller airfields are usually more efficient.

"Another key component, and Pemberton would share this (with Sun Peaks), is that from the U.S. perspective the hassle factor of crossing the border is huge," said Nicolson.

"Coming into a Kamloops airport in the case of a Dash 8, you’ve got a 37-seater or a Q400 you’ve got a few more people but those are the only people going through customs.

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