Chamber campaign promotes non-stop
Subsidies to Horizon to expand beyond
Sun Valley Co.
By MATT FURBER
Express Staff Writer
The Sun Valley/Ketchum Chamber & Visitors
Bureau is seeking community support for non-stop Horizon Air flights to the Wood
River Valley from Oakland and Los Angeles next winter.
The first year of the new service was
subsidized by a federal grant, but in subsequent years the service has been
dependent on local service. The Los Angeles flight service commenced in December
2002 and continued through last March. The Oakland service was offered for the
first time last winter.
For last winterís contract with the
Seattle-based airline, Sun Valley Co. paid Horizon approximately $194,000 in
subsides to maintain the program. This year the Sun Valley/Ketchum Chamber &
Visitors Bureau hopes to garner support from more corners of the community
through a raffle of season ski passes and donations solicited from local
businesses and other organizations.
Like many other destination resort
communities, Sun Valley Resort has secured non-stop service through a Minimum
Revenue Guarantee (MRG) with Horizon Air. The MRG, a guarantee of revenues to
the airline, is a common way for resort destinations to enhance their air
service from key markets. The MRG is usually funded through a partnership with
the ski resort company, local businesses, and sometimes even local governments.
Crested Butte, Jackson Hole, Steamboat
Springs, Vail and Telluride all have community-wide MRG programs that are in
excess of $1 million dollars annually, which bring in flights from key markets
to their destinations.
The Sun Valley effort was considered a
success for the 2003 - 2004 winter season. However, last year the Sun Valley
Resort bore the full cost of the MRG, $164,000 for the revenue shortfall and
$30,000 for diversion busing costs.
A survey of passengers conducted by the SV/K
CVB in March 2004 showed that over 30 percent of passengers on the California
routes were new visitors to the area. The new service not only brought new
visitors, it provides more convenient access to residents traveling out of the
valley, SV/K CVB representatives said.
Many business owners recognize the
importance of providing convenient air access to stimulate new business, said SV/K
CVB representatives. Since the entire community benefits from enhanced air
service, the SV/K CVB is spearheading an effort to raise $100,000 from Wood
River Valley businesses, organizations, and the community at-large to support 50
percent of the anticipated Horizon Air MRG program costs in partnership with Sun
The effort will be a two-part program. A
raffle for 15 Sun Valley Resort 2004-2005 season passes, valued at $1850 each,
will take place throughout the summer and fall. Tickets will be sold for $20
each or three for $50, and will be sold at events by the SV/K CVB staff, board,
Ambassadorís Council, Blaine County Air Transportation Advisory Group, and other
local area groups.
Certain retail outlets throughout the
valley, primarily ski/sporting good retailers, will also be asked to participate
in selling raffle tickets. The goal is to sell 3,000 raffle tickets and raise
$50,000. The drawing for the 15 season pass winners will be held at the joint
Ketchum/Sun Valley & Hailey Chamber Business After Hours (BAH) in October.
The SV/K CVB board of directors will also
request voluntary financial support directly from local businesses and
organizations, ranging from $100 - $1000 depending on the type and size of the
business. The goal of this portion of the program is to raise an additional
$50,000. Any money collected from either the raffle or the business and
organization support program that is not needed to fund 50 percent of the actual
MRG amount due in April will be held in a special SV/K CVB reserve fund for
future air service support programs.
Next winter, service from California will
begin Dec. 18 on 70-passenger Q400 high-speed turboprops and run through March
The service is already available for
booking, with current rates as low as $257 roundtrip from Los Angeles and $299
roundtrip from Oakland. The fares are priced slightly higher than fares on
SkyWest, a Delta connection service through Salt Lake City, to the same markets.
The expectation is that travelers will pay a higher price for the convenience of