Parking Companies Vying With D/FW

Free bottled water and newspapers, $9 coupons, carwashes, oil changes and valet parking are just some of the inducements that D/FW and nearby parking-lot owners are wielding this weekend.

"They've done a phenomenal job of branding themselves," said Paul Shomer, marketing consultant for Standard Parking Corp., another Chicago-based parking operator with airport lots under the brand name Park Air Express. "They're a great company."

The Parking Spot's image was born six years ago in the Metroplex, when one of the company's executives hired Dallas-based Square One Advertising to create its brand.

Mark Wildman, vice president of marketing for The Parking Spot, previously used Square One when he was senior brand manager at Miller Lite.

He knew how important it would be to stand out in a parking industry that was without a true national brand and was mostly run by mom-and-pop businesses.

"Branding and icons are very important for getting people to remember you," he said. "If you can paint a picture for somebody, it's a lot better than a lot of words."

The 7-year-old parking company is owned by Chicago's Pritzker family, which is famous for its ownership of the Hyatt Corp.

The closeness of Hyatt helped led to the kind of services offered by The Parking Spot, said Martin Nesbit, founder and president of The Parking Spot.

The services -- which include free bottled water, free newspapers, a frequent-parker program and a shuttle that picks you up at your car -- helped The Parking Spot make a name for itself, experts said. Parking Spot prices range between $7.50 and $9.50, depending on whether you want covered parking.

"The Parking Spot is probably one of the highest-quality parking lots in the country," said Lombardi, whose online service doesn't have a reservations contract with the Chicago company. "They run the best service. ... The airports could never live up to The Parking Spot's service."

But Parking Spot executives say they are still wary of D/FW Airport.

"I would say of the nine airports that The Parking Spot competes against, D/FW Airport is the most aggressive as far as competing against us," Wildman said.

D/FW executives said they're marketing their parking business like never before.

The airport estimates that 26 percent of all travelers who park off the airport property have never used D/FW Airport for parking.

Ahmad and his colleagues are trying to reach out to them.

This year the airport set up one of its Express Parking buses in front of Dallas Market Hall for a promotional event to raise awareness.

It was the first time the airport undertook a marketing campaign that was directly aimed at bringing in more parking, said Ken Buchanan, the airport's executive vice president of revenue management.

The airport is also running a promotion that started Monday and runs through Nov. 30 that allows people to park near the terminal for $9 a day rather than the normal $16.

Although price is a big factor for parkers, some still want convenience.

Through valet parking, Kenneth Kundmueller, president of Irving-based FreedomPark, is after those customers. He says there's plenty of time-crunched business travelers who don't want to hunt for a parking spot.

So, for $22 a day, he sends one of his valets out to D/FW to pick up a customer's car at the curb of the terminal. While it's got the car, FreedomPark can take care of a variety of needs, including carwashes, oil changes, gas fill-up and even maintenance on certain models.

Kundmueller tracks when the flight is coming back and sends a text message to the client telling him where to go for baggage claim. A valet is then waiting outside the baggage claim doors to hand over the keys.

FreedomPark has enough room for 700 cars in its warehouse near Royal Lane and 635. For a $2-a-day discount, there are 200 more spaces outside the warehouse.

His company gets new business through word of mouth and spends no money on advertising.

"There's a good niche in this high end," he said. "We stay heavily focused on the quality of our service."

Big profits

Parking represents the second-largest revenue source to D/FW. Trailing only airline landing fees, parking makes up 26 percent of the airport's total revenue.

It's also an increasingly profitable line of business. Parkers gave D/FW a $54 million profit in 2004, up from $43 million in 1995.

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