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Evaluating and Improving ASD Efforts 143 the volatility in fuel prices and the overall downturn in the national economy, these losses can Airlines' financial hardly be considered a reflection on the airports' ASD programs. conditions are tied to national eco- Questions About Causality nomic conditions. Airports and communities naturally want to attribute positive outcomes to their efforts and negative outcomes to external events. More often than not, any outcome is the result of both. Changes in the There are only so many events that are under the control or influence of the airport and the local larger economy will community. With airline economics tied to national economic conditions, any significant affect passenger change in a major external factor can affect passenger demand and revenues in a market. demand and What is most important for airports to understand is that what may work well at one point in time may not work at another time, because of external forces. Several airports have lost service revenues. recently, despite long and productive ASD programs. In a number of markets [e.g., Daytona Beach, Bakersfield (CA), Baton Rouge], carriers discontinued service not because of anything that the airport may or may not have done, but because of a combination of factors, especially Airports and com- the increase in fuel prices. munities need to understand that Who should conduct the evaluation? what might have Most people have some difficulty objectively assessing their own efforts. People either tend to worked at one be too hard on themselves or they tend to regard their efforts as far better than third parties might time in one place have gauged. may not work as Ideally, the ASD effort should be evaluated by someone not directly associated with its design and well at another implementation--a neutral third party would be best. But most small airports do not have sufficient staff resources with the time and capabilities to design and implement a rigorous evaluation. Who time, due to performs the evaluation then is an issue that each airport will have to handle internally, depending external forces. on its size and organization. Smaller airports will have little choice in what staff would be assigned the responsibility. Larger airports may want to ask in-house objective staff to do the evaluation. CASE STUDY Taos, New Mexico's less successful efforts In 2002, Taos Regional Airport spent over $265,000 cial from Rio Grande Air reported that the community's for advertising and promotion of its service by Rio support had not sustained after the SCASDP funding Grande Air to Albuquerque using nine-seat Cessna was completed. But he also reported that there were Caravans, which had operated at Taos since 1999. many setbacks that the grant could not control, such (The service was also supported by a SCASDP grant, as a drought in the region leading to a weak ski sea- which helped fund a revenue guarantee.) The adver- son, a major forest fire that caused a drop in enplane- tising and promotion component included billboards, ments, and a drop in the overall economy. newspapers, magazines, television, and radio adver- This case study illustrates the role of external factors tisements. The advertising and promotion program in affecting the viability of air service. The marketing was used to target the visitors who drive to the area, may have reached its target audience for some business travelers, and in-state tourists. period of time; however, because airline profitability Rio Grande continued to provide service to is often fragile (especially with small start-up air- Albuquerque until June 2004, when the airline discon- lines), external events can have a major effect on the tinued operations due to bankruptcy. An airline offi- commercial viability of service.