Friday, February 7, 2014

Chicken-and-egg question answered?

     The Sun Valley area and Denver will become new best friends next summer when United Express begins seasonal direct service from that big city to Friedman Memorial Airport.

     This is the second piece of good air-service news the area has received since United began winter nonstop service from San Francisco, Calif., in December. The service is being made possible by a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to our local airport.

     The connection will bring the East Coast and the Midwest closer to Sun Valley than they’ve ever been. It could help unravel the chicken-and-egg conundrum: Which comes first, more visitors or new hotels?

     Approvals for four new hotels in Ketchum have been on the books for years, awaiting financing that’s failed to materialize because of concerns about the health of the local economy as demonstrated by the number of air seats and number of visitors available to drive demand for rooms and convention facilities.

If the new flights and new regional jets actually bring more visitors, the demand for more hotels may grow, especially during peak seasons. Strong new entrants in the lodging market could diversify the area’s marketing clout as well, both independently and through the cities of Ketchum and Sun Valley, which control the Sun Valley Marketing Alliance.

     The new air service is the result of tons of hard work and the tenacity of private and public groups in the area. Their success generates a need for more hard work to make new commercial jet routes a permanent part of life here and to close the visitors-businesses-visitors loop that will help stabilize the local economy.

     That would mean happy chickens, happy eggs. No question.

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