Airport survey shows visitors count on its convenient location

Most of the flyers are from the southern U.S.

by Mark Reaman

Survey results of airline passengers using the Gunnison-Crested Butte airport (GUC) indicate the facility is a big reason many of them choose to come to the area to recreate.

More than 600 people responded to the survey last winter and summer. The survey shows the majority of the passengers using the airport are from Texas and the southern United States. That’s not surprising since the flights coming in originate from Dallas, Houston, Denver or Chicago. About 85 percent of the people going through the airport in the winter are visitors; the rest are local residents or second homeowners. In the summer that visitor percentage is 75 percent.

According to David Becher of RRC Associates, who gave a report to the Gunnison Valley Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) board on May 1, the demographic shows affluent passengers who enjoy the less crowded experience of the valley compared to other resort towns. The quality of town and the skiing, along with the friendliness of the people, were also mentioned as reasons people fly here.

Those flying in winter tend to stay an average of 5.5 days and spend $1,173 per person. In summer, the visits last longer with an average 8.5-day stay. Summer guests flying in spend $1,063 per person. Becher did the math and showed that the people flying in have an impact of about $33 million to the local economy.

About half of the winter visitors surveyed were on their first winter trip to the area. Looking ahead, 35 percent of the visitors said they “definitely” planned to return next winter. An additional 22 percent said they “probably” would come back in a year. Becher pointed out that only 24 percent of the winter visitors had visited the area in the summer, “suggesting potential opportunities for increasing crossover visitation by winter visitors in summer.”

Becher said those surveyed considered places like Breckenridge, Telluride, Steamboat, Park City and Aspen as other ski resorts to visit when thinking about Crested Butte as a destination.

“Most of the people said they had only looked at the Gunnison airport when making a reservation to fly in and visit the valley,” explained Becher. “They don’t really consider using Montrose or Denver. The convenience of the Gunnison-Crested Butte airport was a factor in their decision. Most said they wouldn’t have come to the area if they had to use another airport. Clearly, the airport is a key factor when deciding to visit.”

Becher said the passengers are “moderately” satisfied with the local airport, with out-of-state flyers being more satisfied than full-time residents.

Overall, when asked about the most important factor in their decision to use GUC airport in the future, the largest share cited the cost of airfares, followed by availability and variety of nonstop flights to out-of-state airport hubs.

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