As you know, international visitors play a big part in contributing to the economy in both Collier and Lee County. Southwest Florida International Airport sees approximately 8 million passengers every year. According to Lee County, in 2014, the three biggest foreign markets for tourism in the region were Germany, Canada and the U.K. They represented more than 500,000 visitors. In the spring of 2015, 81 percent of the total number of tourists who came to the region flew in through Southwest Florida International Airport. Fortunately for us, The Lee County Port Authority recently approved a new budget for a program to attract more international flights to Southwest Florida International Airport. The international incentive program, which was originally funded as much as $125,000, will now receive a maximum funding of $500,000. The program starts on Oct. 1, 2015. Carol Obermeier, Lee County Port Authority’s director of air service development said two factors led to this decision: the economic impact of existing international routes in the area and the comparison with international routes developed at other Florida airports. “The existing route with Düsseldorf in Germany with Air Berlin has a $104 million regional economic impact in Southwest Florida,” Obermeier said. That number includes airline fees, lodging, carrier, eating and other spending. “What would it be for the U. K.? If we use the same system with London, we saw that it would be $76 million total regional economic impact,” she added. Obermeier said Lee County Port Authority will talk to European carriers to develop new routes. Although she couldn’t disclose which companies, she said they were hoping to add routes to London, Frankfurt, and to add more frequency and capacity to Düsseldorf.
Another focus market is Latin America. A direct liaison with Cancun in Mexico is set to open on Oct. 9. “They’re the first recipients of the new program,” Obermeier said. But getting airlines to create new routes is very competitive with Southwest Florida International Airport’s direct competitors being Tampa and Sarasota, but they’re really competing globally. There are extensive operational setups and it’s very expensive to start a new route. Part of the incentive includes waiving landing and terminal fees for one year, with a 50 percent discount the second year. The terminal fees include all the infrastructure costs such as counters and gates for example. Those setting up these new opportunities are hoping to have new routes ready for the winter 2016-2017.
Source: 2015 Journal Media Group