Donald W. Reynolds National Center For Business Journalism

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Seasonal travel’s impact on airport-related industries

November 21, 2012

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This holiday season track down stories that highlight the impact of seasonal travel on airport-related industries.

This week kicks off a month-long whirlwind travel season, with 24 million people expected to fly in the United States for Thanksgiving alone, according to an industry trade group.  Here’s a list generated by Orbitz, for example, of the U.S. airports expected to be the most- and least-busiest this weekend.

Business stories pertaining to this seasonal phenomenon generally focus on airlines from the financial or consumer point of view.  For a different twist, why not take a look between now and Christmas at the effect of holiday travel and tourism on other airport-related industries?

Known as sources (for the airport) of non-aviation revenue, these businesses range from the front-of-house operations like stores, restaurants and services to things like advertising, rental car fees and parking.  A really interesting trade journal, Airport Revenue News, covers the sector.  While a subscription is probably beyond your means, the media/advertising kit on the publication’s website offers a variety of interesting tidbits that will help you formulate questions for local airport officials and for vendors/suppliers.  The site also says ARN’s factbook compiles all sorts of sales and revenue data “on a terminal-by-terminal basis;”  perhaps they’ll share excerpts with journalists upon request.

The Baton Rouge Advocate notes that Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans, for example, is working to increase concessions and other revenue to offset airlines’ resistance to higher fees.

And here’s an interesting April 2012 presentation by the Federal Aviation Administration, “How airports make money and what’s new in compliance.”  Who knew that land leasing — a blueberry farm at a Georgia airport — and solar power generation, among other tactics, are being employed to make use of idle land at airports nationwide

And while security measures prohibit non-passengers from dining in or browsing the terminals, passengers killing time before their next flight have an increasing array of shops and eateries from which to choose.  Do these concessions benefit from holiday travelers?  Here’s an Arizona Star piece, “For travelers, airport can be its own enjoyable stop,” that gives a nod to the merchandise, consumables and amenities at Tuscon’s airport.  And here’s an ABC News piece about yoga, flu shots and even airport hotel workout facilities as revenue generators.

I’ve seen specialty pet shops, massage kiosks, oxygen bars and even used book stores at airports in the Midwest; I wonder how many travelers treat themselves to pampering or head home with stocking stuffers at this time of year, and whether those purchases give a boost to the airport economy.

You might also take a look at the season shifts for the rental car, sedan car, taxicab and shuttle bus industries, as well as off-site parking concessions and even airport hotels.  Check in with the catering companies that service aircraft, as well as food and beverage distributors that sell to in-terminal bars and bistros.  Security firms, cargo handlers, cleaning companies — do workers at these sorts of businesses get extra hours or any other bump from holiday schedules?

Also, check with your area’s general aviation facilities about their business in terms of fuel, fees, charters and other areas that might get a bump during seasonal travel time.

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