Airport visitors spent $200 million last winter |

Airport visitors spent $200 million last winter

EGE Air Alliance

The EGE Air Alliance is a 501c6 not-for-profit entity dedicated to creating a vibrant flight service program at the Eagle County Regional Airport. EGE Air Alliance is a public-private partnership with participants including local municipalities and private business stakeholders. For more information, contact the Vail Valley Partnership at 970-476-1000.

EAGLE — The good folks from the EGE Air Alliance were curious if guests were having fun and how much money they spent last winter.

So they asked them.

It’s called an intercept study, and last winter they intercepted 1,335 departing guests at the Eagle County Regional Airport.

“They have more time to talk when they’re leaving, and they’re also in a good mood,” said Gabe Shalley, Vail Resorts manager of airport sales and marketing.

They found that the visitors to Eagle County’s airport spent $200 million last winter. That’s $2,134 on average per visitor.

That spending included the following:

• $859: lodging

• $466: lift tickets, ski school and ski equipment rentals

• $198: local shopping

• $113: local transportation

• $48: recreation, activities and entertainment

That $200 million poured directly into the local economy does not include multipliers for the number of times that money turns over before it leaves the area, a standard economic impact indicator.

Airport importance

The local airport is also important to people visiting.

The survey found that three out of every 10 guests would not come if they had to access the Vail and Beaver Creek through Denver International Airport.

Instead, they would find somewhere closer to Denver to ski, the survey found.

Another four out of 10 would not come as often, including second-home owners.

“Their biggest objection was dealing with the congestion and traffic on Interstate 70,” Shalley said.

Summer service

They’re constantly negotiating with airlines to expand service, especially summer service.

“You need the right airline with the right aircraft and the right market,” Shalley said.

The summer flights from Houston are in their third year and are performing well, Shalley said. Some of the money spent on attracting those flights might go to summer flights from another market at some point.

While the Air Alliance is trying to drive summer air traffic, so are other Colorado cities. Flights to eight Colorado airports originate from Houston, and not just to Denver and Colorado Springs.

Winter flights up slightly

Winter flights for 2014-15 were up slightly compared to last year, even though the number of seats flying into the Eagle County Regional Airport are down about 100,000 since the winter 2007-08 peak (273,000 inbound seats), when the economy tanked.

Capacity was down 0.6 percent, or 1,214 seats.

Arrivals were up 0.8 percent or 1,097 more arriving passengers than last season for a total of 135,072.

The average plane that landed at the Eagle County airport was 67 percent full, Shalley said. That’s based on the total number of seats from November to April, seven days a week. Like in other places, holidays and peak season flights are packed, running as much as 98 percent full, Shalley said.

About the Air Alliance

The EGE Air Alliance is a nonprofit group of 70 local businesses dedicated to driving flight service into the Eagle County Regional Airport. Winter sees nonstop flights from 11 markets, and there are three in the summer: Denver, Houston and Dallas.

In 2002, a small group of local business leaders and several local government entities signed an agreement with American Airlines for daily nonstop 757 service from Dallas/Fort Worth.

After three years, the flight proved successful enough that American Airlines dropped the guarantee requirements.

The only revenue guarantees are United’s summer flight to Houston, $385,000, less than previous years, and winter to Toronto by Air Canada, $125,000.

Those revenue guarantees are a model used in several resort communities.

“The difference is that many of those resorts have to pay those guarantees forever,” said Mike Brown of the EGE Air Alliance. “Here, in two to three years we can wean the airlines off those revenue guarantees and use that money for other opportunities.”

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and

Support Local Journalism