Airport marketing, closure under discussion | AspenTimes.com

Airport marketing, closure under discussion

Charles Agar

Aspen, CO ColoradoASPEN Different ideas flew between county commissioners Tuesday as they debated how the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport should market itself.In advance of the planned April 2007 closure of Sardy Field, airport officials asked commissioners in an informal work session for help educating the public and promoting continued airport use. The airport will shut down for more than two months next spring for extensive runway work.County and airport officials will first remind local hotels and businesses about details of the planned closure. And when the airport opens, get the word out that everything is back up and running. And a marketing campaign – complete with slogan and new logo – will likely be a part of that as well as a “kick-off” event to introduce the campaign.A few slogans are up in the air: “Closest to the slopes,” “If you’d flown into Aspen, you’d be skiing by now,” and “Positive Altitude.”Commissioners agreed the marketing campaign would be secondary to educating the public about the closure and ongoing capital improvements to the airport.”I don’t think we need to market the airport,” said Commissioner Dorothea Farris. “But the key is getting the information out,” she added, regarding the planned closure.But Commissioner Mick Ireland said “logos are critical” to such a project. When trying to reach the largest number of people, a logo is an effective tool, he said. “It gives people a positive impression of you.””We’re looking for resources to help us do the community outreach portion of the program,” said Jim Elwood, director of aviation at the airport.Pat Bingham from the county community relations department will join the effort and dedicate 20 percent of her time to the project. The net cost of the campaign is $66,513″We’ll do a survey to find out how people feel about their airport,” Bingam said. County staff will poll travelers in the terminal and in the community to find out what is effective and what needs to be changed about the facility.An earlier Aspen Skiing Co. survey showed 39 percent of visitors come here via commercial airline flights.Another 39 percent fly to Denver or Eagle and 20 percent drive. And while just 2 percent fly on private jets, that statistic does not represent the amount of private jet traffic in the airport (with each jet carrying only a few people), Ireland said.The commissioners agreed they don’t want to increase the number of visitors to Aspen, just improve the way people come, most preferably by direct commercial flight and use of shuttles and public transport during their visit instead of renting cars.”Increase butts in seats” on commercial flights was how Commissioner Patti Clapper termed it. “We’re trying to encourage people to use our airport.”The airport outreach plan was first floated before commissioners on Aug. 22, but the board disapproved the idea of “marketing” the airport and turned it down. Airport staff was not present at that first meeting, and the board was shorthanded that day, so Commissioner Patti Clapper asked to revisit the issue.”The commissioners are interested in hearing survey results first,” Bingham said. Airport and county staff will collect information about the airport in coming weeks, and Bingham has a local PR firm in mind to join the campaign.Farris said the marketing plan was about educating the public and dispelling rumors. “It isn’t going out and being cutesy.”For more information about the April 9 to June 7, 2007, airport closure and planned renovations, visit: http://www.aspenairport.com.Charles Agar’s e-mail address is cagar@aspentimes.com.