Tug-of-War: Funding Air Travel to Steamboat Springs – Who’s Paying?

August 4th, 2011

Traveling by air to and from Steamboat Springs, CO involves a three plus hour drive to/from the Denver International Airport for many locals as well as visitors. The fact is that many choose to make the drive versus scheduling flight itineraries around the flights from DIA to the Yampa Valley Regional Airport and/or paying the extra fare to fly from Denver to YVRA. But of course we’d all like a cheaper and quicker way to get to Steamboat Springs. As world-class resort and vibrant second home community, easy access is desirable, but not always easily achievable.

It’s an annual tug-of-war when Steamboat’s Ski Corp. attempts to maximize the Fly Steamboat program with the airlines offering direct flights into YVRA. Negotiations center around the Steamboat resort community providing minimum revenue guarantees to the airlines in exchange for the optimal balance among numerous flight scheduling variables. In a tough economy it’s even more important to ensure those choosing Steamboat Springs as a vacation and/or second home real estate destination have viable options to get here…and it’s also harder to fund those options with diminished local resources .

Direct flights are currently offered from the following cities with these cities connecting us to more than 200 additional smaller domestic markets:

• Atlanta

• Chicago

• Dallas/Fort Worth

• Denver

• Houston

• Minneapolis/St. Paul

• Newark, NJ

The 2011/2012 season brings with it the highest minimum revenue guarantee ($3.35M) the Steamboat Springs resort community has ever promised the four airlines providing direct flights into YVRA. And what incremental benefits are we getting in return…a 4% increase in seats from last year which has many puts and takes built into it as far as where that 4% increase comes from.

Where does this minimum revenue guarantee get its funding? Ski Corp. funds the majority of it, while the Local Marketing District’s 2% lodging tax and the Steamboat Chamber Resort Association’s Fly Steamboat member businesses combine to fund the remainder. But this year, the pot needs a little more help in getting filled…which brings us to the Steamboat Springs City Council deciding whether a .25% citywide sales tax should be voted on in November.

If approved, November’s ballot will contain two very polarizing issues for voters to weigh in on: Medical Marijuana Dispensaries and an increase in the city’s sales tax – voting for candidates to fill offices might just become secondary reasons for voters to complete their ballots.

No matter where you fall on the side of being for or against a sales tax increase to help fund the airline minimum reserve guarantee, the overriding issue is that adequate and affordable air service to the Yampa Valley is critical to the long-term viability of our resort and real estate businesses. Ski Town USA® offers the perfect location for the ideal family ski vacation as well as for a second home get-away…and part of the allure is being off the I-70 corridor. It’s the proverbial double-edged sword, and it remains to be seen who will bear the cost of providing guaranteed direct air service for 2011-12 and beyond.

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