Vail Valley Partnership: Eagle County Regional Airport is a major economic driver (column)
The EGE Air Alliance is a nonprofit that provides funding to bring more flights into Eagle County Regional Airport so Vail Valley businesses, residents and communities have strong and vibrant flight services.
Why is this funding support important? Because so much of our local economy, job market and businesses depend on the dollars spent by guests, tourists and second homeowners who come through the Eagle County Regional Airport (EGE).
They do this because it is more convenient than flying into Denver International Airport and attempting to drive here on an increasingly unreliable Interstate 70.
For 2018, the EGE Air Alliance provided minimum revenue guarantee support for two winter routes — Phoenix and Washington, D.C. — that began in winter 2016-2017.
Both markets continued to succeed in year two, and both flights will continue in next winter.
Washington D.C. service frequency will increase by 300 percent next season, with a minimal increase to overall risk for the alliance and huge upside potential to benefit our economy.
The Alliance has also worked with United Airlines to expand its service from San Francisco from weekends to daily service for winter 2018-2019. United has also introduced a weekend flight from Los Angeles complementing the existing daily service on American.
Air service appealing to local travelers is also important; EGE Air Alliance has worked with American Airlines to fill the fall and spring gaps in service to achieve daily year-round service to EGE from Dallas and Fort Worth. This increase in shoulder season service has proven to be successful and appealing to locals as we now have two airlines vying for local customers and fares have been competitive in these travel periods.
To better understand the importance of air service to Eagle County, the EGE Air Alliance also conducted a winter research project.
Overall results showed Vail and Beaver Creek guests accessing the resorts via EGE are some of our most loyal and frequent guests. They are traveling here to ski, they stay in paid lodging and they enjoy all aspects of their resort visit including fine dining, shopping and visiting galleries.
When survey respondents were asked about their plans if they had to fly into Denver and drive to the Vail Valley, only 29 percent said they would continue to visit as frequently as they do today. Ten percent would not visit at all, and 18 percent responded that it is unlikely they would visit.
The airport and the work of the EGE Air Alliance is meaningful and contributes significantly to the economic development and livelihood of everyone in the community.
Summer flights alone result in more than $32 million in local spending; winter season flights result in $236.5 million in guest spending with an additional $9.3 million in spending from the flights with minimum revenue guarantees in place. (Economic impacts are based on economic impact study data from winter 2017-18 and summer 2015 at Eagle County Regional Airport).
EGE Air Alliance funding supports the Washington, Phoenix and Dallas, markets, which are estimated to bring in 11,149 new passengers through the airport, resulting in an estimated economic impact in 2019 to Eagle County’s economy as a direct result of the minimum revenue guarantee markets $16.5 million.
That’s a solid return on investment for the public and private entities that participate in the EGE Air Alliance.
Minimum revenue guarantees and our airline partnerships remain a key economic development priority and benefit our local communities and citizens just as they benefit our visitors.
Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at http://www.vailvalleypartnership.com.