The Santa Fe Municipal Airport will have to offer frequent flights to major cities and launch a campaign to raise awareness of its services -- and existence -- if it's to become a regional economic engine, according to a city-sponsored study released this week.
The findings come as the city prepares to apply for an upgrade in the airport's federal certification that will allow it to service regional jets carrying no more than 60 passengers.
The Regional Development Corporation was hired last fall to solicit the opinions of 31 major economic players in the region to determine the impact of the upgrade.
The overall response was positive but did not include opinions from area residents. Such a survey might be considered in the future, said Lynette Montoya, the city economic development director, whose department is promoting the airport as a regional economic engine.
The survey revealed there is a general lack of awareness of what services are offered at the airport. Montoya said her department plans to take the lead in better marketing the airport.
Of the 31 organizations polled, a quarter were unaware the airport currently offers commercial service through Great Lakes Airlines -- with trips only to Denver. And slightly fewer than half of those polled currently use the airport for business travel.
Business groups representing tourism-driven industries -- restaurants, outfitters, lodgers, ski areas and the state's Department of Tourism -- see an airport-service upgrade as an opportunity to draw more people to the region while bypassing the Albuquerque International Sunport.
"Santa Fe cannot compete with other major U.S. cities for conventions and last-minute leisure travel because of the inconvenience associated with traveling from Albuquerque to Santa Fe," wrote Lisa Sanderson, executive director of the Santa Fe Restaurant Association, in a letter supporting expansion of airport service. She notes the city has been named as a top destination in high-end travel magazines.
Regional businesses said they want to see service to Dallas, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and Phoenix, as well as Denver.
"Increase the number of flights and expand into new markets such as Mexico and Chicago, where potential is great," wrote one unnamed person surveyed in the report. "Increased flights are a home run for everybody by opening doors to new business."
The report doesn't support expansion of service to Chicago. But it suggests service to Washington, D.C., is important because Santa Fe is a state capital. And increased motion-picture shoots in New Mexico would warrant direct connections to Los Angeles International Airport -- or Burbank alternatively -- the report said.
Dallas is one of the markets that provides many tourists perennially to Santa Fe and, like Phoenix and Denver, serves as a hub for connecting to nationwide flights.
Airport Manager Jim Montman has said he believes United Airlines will service Santa Fe once its certification is upgraded and talks have been held with other carriers. Commercial flights from the Santa Fe Municipal Airport currently account for less than 5 percent of the activity at the airport.
News stories provided by third parties are not edited by "Site Publication" staff. For suggestions and comments, please click the Contact link at the bottom of this page.