Sun Peaks and Colorado’s resorts setting an example 

Successful air services rely on partnerships

As Prime Air attempts to get a chartered air service flying into Pemberton within the next month, the success of regional airports in other resort communities has become a focal point.

Resort communities such as Sun Peaks as well as Vail and Steamboat Springs in Colorado have all benefited from regional airports.

In B.C., Sun Peaks convinced Horizon Airlines to start an air service into Kamloops airport last winter and in it’s first season the service attracted 8,400 customers.

This air service was a vital step for Sun Peaks because it is not situated close to a big population base, such as Vancouver, and therefore it’s more reliant on customers who fly in.

In light of this success Executive Director of Tourism Sun Peaks Christopher Nicolson, who is a former public relations manager for Whistler-Blackcomb, said he did not know why the stakeholders in Whistler and Pemberton had not facilitated an air service into Pemberton airport.

"The marketing people in Whistler are certainly very aware of the importance of an air service but I don’t have a good answer as to why it hasn’t been done yet," said Nicolson.

While the airport situation in Sun Peaks is similar to the one in Pemberton there are some differences.

The first is that unlike Pemberton, Kamloops has a working airport that is classified to accept regularly scheduled passenger service.

Pemberton airport is only classified by Transport Canada to accept chartered aircraft.

The other advantage Sun Peaks had in arranging their air service is that Kamloops has a bigger tax base than Pemberton and with more tax dollars comes more funding for community projects.

Where Whistler has a distinct edge on most other resorts is the number of visitors. Sun Peaks has about 300,000 skier visits a year whereas Whistler-Blackcomb has more than two million.

Whistler does not guarantee any airlines seats on flights into Vancouver International Airport or anywhere else.

Nicolson said the air service to Sun Peaks happened as a result of a series of partnerships with the resort, the city and a number of community groups.

"Each deal is different depending on the airline and in the Sun Peaks example we have a partnership between the properties, the hotel partners, the resort developer Sun Peaks Corporation and Tourism Sun Peaks," he said.

"We’re also working in close partnership with the City of Kamloops, YVR (Vancouver International Airport) who operate the Kamloops airport, and something called the Kamloops Airport Society which is basically a collection of stakeholders in the Kamloops area.

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