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You’ve landed at Vail International Airport

Kathy Heicher
Eagle Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” A marketing consultant’s suggestion that the Eagle County Regional Airport be re-named “Colorado International Airport” got a lukewarm reception from the Eagle County Commissioners Tuesday.

The commissioners want citizens to weigh in on a potential name change before making any decisions.

“We encourage constituents to call-in, e-mail, and share their thoughts,” said Commissioner Sara Fisher.

The suggestion for the name change came from a $90,000 marketing study by the county and Vail Resorts. The two entities split the cost of the study.

The county’s share came from airport revenues, not taxes, said Eagle County Communications Director Justin Finestone.

Genesis, Inc., a Denver-based marketing firm, talked to travel agents, local citizens, and business leaders about the airport’s identity, now and in the future. The goal was to optimize the facility’s “brand,” or name recognition, and market the airport to its full potential.

They found that the airport, depending on whether locals, travelers, or travel agents are doing the talking, is known variously as “Eagle County Regional Airport,” “Vail Airport,” or “Eagle-Vail Airport.”

“You don’t have a name. You have a bunch of nicknames,” said Jim Adler, chief executive of Genesis. The consultant’s goal is to create an internationally-recognized name or “brand” for the airport.

“Beyond the valley, Eagle doesn’t have any familiarity or meaning,” Adler noted.

However, the consultants that tagging the airport with a “Vail” name might be too limiting for a regional facility that serves numerous mountain communities.

Noting that the mere mention of “Colorado” tends to evoke images of mountain beauty and outdoor lifestyle ” and that the airport’s future could emphasize national service ” Genesis came up with the “Colorado International Airport” name.

“If ever an airport deserved to be called ‘Colorado,’ it’s this one,” said Graham Button, a Genesis partner.

The town of Vail, operating with advance word of the study’s recommendation, sent a letter signed by Mayor Dick Cleveland objecting to any new name that did not include the word “Vail.” Cleveland’s letter cited the need to “create a sense of place, and eliminate confusion.” The town suggested “Vail-Eagle County Airport” as an appropriate name.

Commission Chairman Peter Runyon had similar thoughts.

“The Vail name has huge power and cache,” he argued. Runyon also noted that at this point, the airport doesn’t offer international commercial flights (some international charter flights do come in). He warned that at this point, inserting the word “international” into the title might create false expectations.

Fellow Commissioner Arn Menconi acknowledged that “Vail” a more recognizable name than “Eagle County.” He questioned the implications of the word “international” in the airport title, and said county leaders need to think about what they want the airport to be in five or 10 years.

“Do we want five runways, and planes landing day and night?” he asked, noting that the impacts would be felt in downvalley communities. Eagle Town Manager Willy Powell stated some of the same concerns, but acknowledged that there is a lack of identity with the current airport name.

Paul Gordon of the Vail Valley Jet Center, argued that “Vail International Airport” was the most sensible name.

Ian Arthur, vice president of marketing for Vail Resorts, said the name decision rests with the county. He said the ski company will market whatever name the county comes up with.

“Let the community, and taxpayers at large decide,” he said, “Our desire is to market the airport on a year-around basis.”

Gypsum Town Council member Tom Edwards teased that “Gypsum International Airport” was his preferred airport name. However, he lobbied for the “Colorado International Airport” name suggested by the consultants.

“You paid the experts to come up with the most advantageous name. If the goal was to name it ‘Vail Airport,’ there was no need to hire an expert,” he said.


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