Our View: New flight is a bold move
The decision this month by ski season airline service managers to add a twice-weekly roundtrip flight between Los Angeles and Yampa Valley Regional Airport was bold, even risky. And that’s why we like it.
The addition of the L.A. service comes at a time when the budget is stretched and the local economy is in the midst of an unsteady economic recovery complicated by a dismal snow year in 2011-12. All that comes against a background of a changing mix of ski season visitors whose desires and personal budgets also are in a state of flux. We think that to stick only with the markets that have served us best in the past would have left us in jeopardy of falling behind other resorts.
The new California connection allows us to tap into not only a huge domestic metropolitan area but also what has become Steamboat’s single-greatest source of international tourism: Australia.
Ski area officials told the Steamboat Today last week that more than 50 percent of Steamboat’s international visitors now come from the land down under. The timing of the roundtrip from LAX to HDN on United was carefully selected to provide appealing connections to a mainline flight from Sydney. That allows visitors from Australia to avoid the necessity of over-flying Steamboat on a flight from Los Angeles to Denver before boarding another flight to backtrack to YVRA. And that’s a big deal for people who are making a 14-hour flight across the Pacific Ocean.
To be clear, just 12 percent of Steamboat’s annual skier visits are attributable to international travel. But as we’ve been painfully reminded this year by the economic woes of the eurozone, we are living, competing and vacationing in a global economy.
This is not the first time Steamboat has tried to gain traction in California with a direct flight to YVRA. Previous attempts were less than successful due in part to the cost of promoting the flight via traditional advertising media in one of the most expensive markets in the country. Ski area Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing Rob Perlman pointed out this month that all that has changed. Perlman, who has spent part of his career at California ski areas, understands as well as anyone in the industry what motivates people in the Golden State to ski and snowboard. In addition, he knows that the capability to launch an email and Internet promotional campaign that targets people living in specific zip codes will allow Steamboat to reach its demographic in a cost-effective way. That’s the key to marketing and filling the regional jet that will serve the LAX/YVRA roundtrip on Saturdays and Sundays during the ski season.
For the resort community to fail to acknowledge this increasingly important market, and stand pat without trying to crack the Southern California market at the same time, would have represented a lost opportunity.
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It is going to be a hot week in Steamboat Springs.