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CHAPTER 18 AIRPORT SURVEY METHODOLOGY AND FINDINGS 18.1 Introduction 18.2 General Aviation Airports 18.3 Commercial Service Airports This chapter summarizes the methodology and findings from surveys of general aviation and small commer- cial service airports that were undertaken for this study. 18.1 INTRODUCTION The research team identified a sample of general aviation and commercial service airports that were (a) poten- tial users of the Guidebook, (b) airports that had experienced growth since 2000, and/or (c) airports that had positive marketing experiences. The purpose of the interviews was to understand more about the marketing experience of small airports and to uncover "best practices" of marketing techniques that are useful for small airports. In the case of larger airports, the ACRP Project 01-04 panel instructed the team to investigate the "scalability" of their marketing programs. A total of 36 airports were sent an initial letter under TRB letterhead explaining the project and inviting participa- tion in the interviews. Letters were followed by telephone calls to schedule an interview. Airports had the oppor- tunity to fill out the questionnaire before the interview or during the interview. The response rate was excellent with 16 out of 21 general aviation airports responding and 12 of 15 commercial service airports responding. Two teams conducted the interviews. KRAMER aerotek, inc., handled the general aviation airports and Oliver Wyman handled the commercial service airports. As it turned out, a few airports in both groups had recently lost air service and reinstatement of the service was top on their list of marketing priorities. Since the marketing focus for general aviation airports and commercial service airports is different, we report interview results separately. Section 18.2 reports on the results from interviews with general aviation airports. Section 18.3 reports on the results from interviews with commercial service airports. 18.2 GENERAL AVIATION AIRPORTS 18.2.1 SURVEY METHODOLOGY AND SAMPLE SIZE Twenty-one general aviation airports were selected for this study, representing small, medium, and large general aviation airports from across the United States to better understand marketing challenges, activities, successes, and patterns. Of the 21 airports contacted, 16 agreed to participate in the survey and are listed in Exhibit 18.1. 163
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164 Marketing Guidebook for Small Airports Each airport was called and sent a survey to complete and return. A telephone interview was conducted the day following receipt of the survey to clarify answers and delve into specific issues. Telephone interviews typ- ically lasted 45 minutes to 1 hour. Exhibit 18.1--General Aviation Airports Participating in ACRP Project 01-04 Interviews. 2007 ID Participating Airports State Based Aircraft Operations APA Centennial Airport CO 709 321,804 CHD Chandler Municipal Airport AZ 449 268,093 LGU Logan-Cache Airport UT 146 173,197 FIT Fitchburg Municipal Airport MA 146 168,025 CRG Craig Municipal Airport FL 319 163,174 ISM Kissimmee Gateway Airport FL 206 148,523 GXY Greeley-Weld County Airport CO 223 143,000 MGJ Orange County Airport NY 243 133,888 EUL Caldwell Industrial Airport ID 390 132,888 HUM Houma-Terrebonne LA 109 122,523 ASH Nashua Municipal Airport NH 441 117,907 SNS Salinas Municipal Airport CA 229 73,773 HGR Hagerstown Regional Airport, Richard A. Henson Field MD 163 48,475 BQK Glynn County Airport Commission GA 58 22,233 SLN Salina Municipal Airport KS 137 17,145 DUJ Dubois Regional Airport PA 26 15,282 Sources: Airport IQ, 5010 Reports, and FAA Terminal Area Forecasts 18.2.2 GENERAL FINDINGS FROM INTERVIEWS WITH GENERAL AVIATION AIRPORTS · When it comes to marketing, airport managers are likely to use the resources and networks already established. Since airport managers have many duties, marketing activities also strongly correlate with the pursuit of their own particular interests, for example, scouting, student projects, air shows, charity events, and so forth. · Airport managers view their three principal assets at the airport as (1) the airfield (runways and taxiways), (2) fuel, and (3) property. Demand for these assets and how they are managed dictates development and marketing opportunities. · When managers have a strong sense of "airport stewardship," they also have a more directed market- ing program. Airport managers that viewed their airport as part of the community understood clearly the role of the airport in the community and the region. This role dictated the marketing activities. · Several airport managers emphasized the importance of developing a vision or plan for the airport whether formal or informal and then executing that plan. · Airports extend market reach by cultivating and relying on airport champions in the community. These champions typically include the chamber of commerce, the local economic development organiza- tion, or a local university or college. These groups broaden the airport manager's ability to market the airport. · Most managers articulated the importance of reaching out beyond the fence of the airport to better serve the community and to establish critical political allies.
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Airport Survey Methodology and Findings 165 · Marketing and public relations directed at sustaining and improving tenant relations is a different audience than marketing to the community at large. The value of air shows and open houses drew a mixed response. Some managers felt that these events attract existing supporters to the airport. Sponsorship of totally non-airport events sometimes has the effect of garnering new support and friends of the airport. · Airports interviewed that had lost air service are under considerable community pressure to reinstate that service. This translates to a much higher marketing priority placed on carrier recruitment than on general aviation marketing. Proportionally, many more resources are dedicated to air service develop- ment than to general aviation marketing, even for airports with robust general aviation and industrial activity. · Two types of marketing tools stood out as effective and inexpensive: earned media and websites. Earned media occurs when an airport takes an action to generate news or to attract journalists. Airport managers viewed earned media such as press releases and newspaper or magazine articles as effec- tive, low cost marketing tools to improve the public image of the airport and advertise upcoming events at the airport. · Websites have been embraced by airports as a necessary marketing tool. Some airports direct all their advertising to the website. But the websites have to be good. Perceived effectiveness is directly related to an airport's ability to keep the website current. Airport webpages embedded in city or county web- sites are perceived to be less effective as a marketing tool than stand-alone airport websites. 18.2.3 RESPONSES TO INDIVIDUAL QUESTIONS ON SURVEY SECTION 1--MARKETING AT YOUR AIRPORT · Marketing Responsibility--15 out of the 16 airport managers or marketing executives that were inter- viewed reported having overall responsibility for the marketing activities at their airport. The one man- ager with fewer marketing responsibilities works for Craig Airport, which is managed by the Jacksonville Airport Authority. The authority centrally handles marketing for Craig, the two other general aviation airports, and Jacksonville International Airport. · Internal Marketing Staff Resources--13 of the 16 airports surveyed have no direct marketing staff mem- bers. They either do all the marketing themselves or with some administrative support. · External Marketing Resources--The airports use a variety of external resources for marketing support (see Exhibit 18.2). The most common are the local chambers of commerce, the economic develop- ment organizations, and the FBOs. These groups help fund marketing activities, staff events, and pro- vide new business leads. Airports also often use resources at local colleges and universities for airport economic impact studies, business plans, or marketing plans.
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166 Marketing Guidebook for Small Airports Exhibit 18.2--External Resources General Aviation Airports Use for Marketing, Lead Generation, and Volunteers. Local Chamber of Commerce Fixed Based Operator Economic Development Group Other Consultants Volunteers Ad Agency Joint Partners No One Lobbyist 0 2 4 6 8 10 12 Re sponse s Source: Airport Manager Survey, 2008 SECTION 2--YOUR AIRPORT'S TOP MARKETING GOALS Perceived Airport Strengths--Airport managers reported location, facilities and infrastructure, and services offered at the airport as the top strengths (see Exhibit 18.3). Exhibit 18.3--Perceived Airport Strengths. Location Airport Facilities & Infrastructure Services Industry in Area Available Land Other Low Operating Costs Strong Local Support 0 2 4 6 8 10 12 Re sponse s Source: Airport Manager Survey, 2008 Marketing Goals/Priorities of Your Airport--This question had two parts: first, identify marketing goals and then identify the top three marketing priorities (see Exhibit 18.4). Interestingly, goals were expressed mostly in terms of attracting new business to the airport. However, public image ranked high as a marketing/public rela- tions priority.
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Airport Survey Methodology and Findings 167 Exhibit 18.4--Marketing Priorities. Attract new businesses to the airport Promote positive view of airport in the community Retain current airport tenants Attract more general aviation or business activity Promote airport to funding sources Address public safety, noise and land use issues Attract developers to the airport Market hangars Reinstate air service Lobby congressional delegation 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Responses Source: Airport Manager Survey, 2008 Most Time/Money Spent on Marketing--Respondents were asked to identify the top three marketing priorities and also to indicate the three areas where they spend the most money and the most time. Exhibit 18.5 summa- rizes the results. Exhibit 18.5--Top Ranking Priorities, Most Money, and Most Time. Priority Most Money Most Time Attract new businesses to the airport 9 7 7 Promote positive view of airport in the community 8 7 13 Retain current airport tenants 7 4 3 Attract more general aviation or business activity 6 5 2 Promote airport to funding sources 5 0 5 Address public safety, noise and land use issues 5 4 6 Attract developers to the airport 5 3 6 Market hangars 5 1 1 Reinstate air service 3 4 3 Lobby congressional delegation 2 2 2 Source: Airport Manager Survey, 2008 What Influenced Your Marketing Goals--9 of the 16 airport managers reported that an existing strategic or business plan was the basis for establishing their marketing goals and, in some cases, was augmented by a SWOT analysis or a customer satisfaction survey. Eleven of the 16 airport managers indicated that marketing goals developed as a response to an "urgent situation" that required attention. These situations included the need to respond to community growth/expansion, the need to change the community's perception of the air- port, the drive to keep the airport self-sufficient, and the desire for commercial service.
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168 Marketing Guidebook for Small Airports SECTION 3--MARKETING TOOLS YOUR AIRPORT USES General Observations--Most of the airport managers interviewed have limited financial resources to spend on marketing. Therefore, they try to spend their marketing dollars expeditiously and on tools that "will work." The most popular marketing tools among those interviewed include "earned media" such as press releases and newspaper and magazine articles that get the word out at a limited cost to the airport. Also included in the less costly but effective category were an economic impact or marketing brochure completed and/or paid for by the local economic development group, chamber, or university. Almost all the airports have a website and believe it to be effective if maintained, but not effective if not maintained. Those airports seeking to attract or maintain commercial air service spend significant marketing dollars on more traditional advertising tools such as TV and radio spots, print ads, and billboards to attract passengers. These more traditional marketing tools are not used by general aviation airports because they are perceived to be expensive and not effective for reaching general aviation audiences. Almost all airport managers surveyed do some form of networking, and many do multiple forms of networking on a regular basis. Marketing Tools Your Airport Did Not Use--The marketing tools not used by general aviation airports were television ads, radio ads, billboards, ads on websites, and newspaper and magazine ads. Marketing Tools Your Airport Used Either a Lot or Somewhat--The most frequent tools used were air- port websites, followed by press releases, articles, printed brochures, and economic impact brochures (see Exhibit 18.6). Exhibit 18.6--Marketing Tools Used A Lot or Somewhat. Airport website Press releases Articles in newspapers or magazines Printed marketing brochure Airport economic impact brochure Magazine ads Printed newsletter Newspaper ads Electronic newsletter Radio ads Advertising on other websites Billboards TV ads 0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 Responses Source: Airport Manager Survey, 2008 Marketing Tools You Found to Be Effective--Airport managers also reported that the airport website was most effective, followed by press releases and articles. Networking Activities in Which You Have Participated--Most managers spend time networking. This question generated one of the highest response rates as Exhibit 18.7 shows. Interestingly, although meeting with business
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Airport Survey Methodology and Findings 169 prospects and existing tenants was ranked low in terms of taking time, it was the highest ranked networking activity. Exhibit 18.7--Networking Activities. Meet with existing tenants on regular basis Participation in state AOA Attend conferences Public speaking in community Meet with business prospects Membership in AAAE Participation in local chamber or rotary Operate booth at conference/convention Guest speaker at conference Meet with airlines Other Membership in ACI-NA 0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 Responses Source: Airport Manager Survey, 2008 Networking Activities You Have Found to Be Effective or Somewhat Effective--Airport managers reported meeting with business prospects and tenants to be their most effective networking activities, followed by public speaking engagements, participation in the state AOA, chamber of commerce and Rotary clubs, AAAE member- ship, and attending conferences. Conferences That Are Most Useful to Attend (with or without a Booth)--Of those attending conferences, seven airport managers reported AAAE conferences to be the most useful to attend, while six airport managers reported NBAA conferences as the most useful conference to attend. Other useful conferences (but to a lesser extent) included statewide airport association conferences, MRO, AOPA, and Jumpstart. Even fewer respon- dents have a booth at conferences because of the cost and perceived lack of effectiveness of the booth. Of those who do have a booth, the National NBAA Conference was most often mentioned as useful. Two respon- dents found having a booth at NBAA to be extremely effective for them. Another manager has given up the booth in favor of appointments and networking at NBAA. SECTION 4--HOW YOUR AIRPORT MEASURES EFFECTIVENESS OF MARKETING General Observations--This section of the survey received fewer overall responses than Sections 1 through 3, and there was no consensus regarding the best ways to measure overall effectiveness of marketing tools and networking activities. This is most likely true because measuring marketing effectiveness is difficult, time con- suming, and expensive to do in a quantitative/scientific manner, and many survey respondents are resource constrained.