GYPSUM, Colo. (CBS4) – As ski areas in the mountains look to cash in on summer time tourism, the industries that support that are growing now as well.
United Airlines has decided to add a flight from Houston to the Eagle County Regional Airport in Gypsum. Before the great recession hit, the airport had a robust schedule of flights coming in, but since then business leaders in the Vail Valley have come together to help what they say is the largest driver for tourism outside of ski season.
“We’d like to see service stabilized over the year more. Right now about 75 percent of our traffic happens during the months from about the middle of December through the end of March,” said Greg Phillips, Eagle County Regional Airport Director.
With arrivals and departures expected to drop off in the next few weeks, all the local governments and businesses pitched in to help bring more travelers to the central mountains.
“Now, because we realize we’re all in this together, that everyone, businesses, lodges, restaurants, the ski resorts benefit from the passengers and planes coming through the Vail Valley,” said Mike Brown, Chairman of the EGE Air Alliance.
The EGE Air Alliance is giving United Airlines $400,000 in a revenue guarantee to bring the new Houston to Eagle flight.
“It also means there’s more employment for the rental cars, for the concessions, for the ground transportation operators year round where some of those businesses really have to shut down,” Phillips said.
There’s been a kind of fundraising effort in the last few weeks and many around the Vail area gave money because the looming Twin Tunnels expansion project.
“It’s a very big part of it,” Brown said.
Some say a potential traffic nightmare will encourage people to skip the commute from Denver International Airport.
“Especially in the summer as they’re kicking that construction into high gear, this is going to be another very convenient way for our visitors to get here,” Brown said.
All of the businesses hope it will be a jumping off point with more flights to come.
“So bringing the airplanes in now is great, but people now need to use them, people have to fly them,” Brown said. “If we can show that we can fill airplanes, I think it bodes very well for us toward bringing in additional service in the future.”
The new Houston flight starts at the end of June and will operate five days a week through the summer. Houston was picked because it is a major hub for national and international flights.