Disney Marketing Pact Pays Off for ONT

Jan. 9--ONTARIO -- Disneyland saw its attendance jump 8.5 percent in 2005 -- the same year it partnered with Ontario International Airport in a promotional effort intended to lure travelers both to the airport and the Orange County theme park.

Although it's unlikely the promotion contributed much to Disneyland's ability to draw 14.5 million visitors last year, officials said it was another step toward the goal of positioning ONT as a major hub for Southern California's air traffic.

The marketing agreement came when Disney representatives approached local airports in 2005, looking for a way to spread the word about Disneyland's 50th anniversary and related events at the Anaheim resort.

When they met with officials from Los Angeles World Airports, which owns both ONT and Los Angeles International Airport, the focus was on Ontario, said Disney spokesman Robert Deuel.

"LAWA was interested in promoting Ontario International Airport as a gateway to Southern California," Deuel said. "We developed a very comprehensive program for" ONT.

That included banners hung throughout the terminals' arrival areas, encouraging tourists and visitors to make a trip to Disneyland for its anniversary, and other decorations, such as statues of Disney characters near the baggage claim.

In exchange, Disney promoted ONT in brochures and on its Web site as one of several convenient airports for travelers looking to visit the theme park.

"It's the first time in our history that the airport has had a partnership with Disneyland," said ONT spokeswoman Maria Tesoro-Fermin.

However, the airport is still far from being the top destination for Disneyland-bound tourists. Transportation to Anaheim is more complicated for ONT travelers than it is for those arriving at LAX, even though the two airports are just as far from the park.

Shuttle services are limited at ONT, and it costs more to get from there to Disneyland than it does for travelers arriving at LAX.

Also, the officially licensed Disneyland Resort Express bus ferries recently arrived travelers to the park every half-hour -- but only from LAX and John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana.

Liz Greene of Coach USA, the transit firm that operates the buses, said there are no immediate plans to extend the service to Ontario. She also wasn't aware of any discussions to branch out in the future.

But some day, it might, Deuel said. "We would love for it to go to Ontario as well," he said.