San Angelo Chamber: Two airlines taking travel and tourism numbers sky-high

Local News

SAN ANGELO, Texas – July 21, 2021 marks three months since the first United flight took off from Mathis Field in San Angelo.

The twice daily United flights (operated by SkyWest Airlines) travel directly from San Angelo to Houston.

“Houston is the gateway to the world. Dallas is too but having a choice of options give you lots of opportunities to travel,” Walt Koenig, President of the San Angelo Chamber of Commerce said.

Koenig says that this second airline also brings interest from businesses that are looking to expand or relocate to the Concho Valley.

“That will give a gateway to an international audience which is more difficult to access exclusively through Dallas,” Koenig said.

Jeremy Valguardson, San Angelo Airport Director, shares Koenig’s outlook but notes that the international markets are still currently facing some issues due to the ongoing pandemic. However, Valguardson says that locally, when it comes to ticket sales and flight capacity, San Angelo’s statistics are rivaling national numbers.

“American hasn’t really seen a drop in passengers. We’ve had very good load factors, in the 78 percent range which is competing with the national average for domestic travel so anything that United has brought in has been above and beyond what we’ve had pre United,” Valguardson said.

Valguardson stated that a specific issue the airport is facing in regards to the new airline is simply making folks aware that it’s here. That is exactly what the City of San Angelo and the Chamber of Commerce are working to do. The marketing aspect was part of a contract put in place by the City and the airline.

Below is an excerpt from a press release from the City of San Angelo that was released in January of 2021.

According to an economic development study in 2018 by the Texas Department of Transportation, SJT has generated around $124 million in the community and provided more than 1,200 jobs.

The contract period with SkyWest will last two years. SkyWest requested terms of a $1-million revenue guarantee, $200,000 in marketing and advertising assistance and a waiver of rental and landing fees for the length of the contract. All conditions will help offset the airline’s startup cost of entering a new market.

Funds will come from the City of San Angelo Development Corporation (COSADC). At the end of January, SJT will apply for a grant with the Small Community Air Services Development Program. If accepted, the grant funds will be used to reimburse COSADC.

City of San Angelo

The marketing efforts come in many forms; billboards, ads, telephone conversations, and face to face visits.

“We’ve gotten great feedback from our event planners,” Diann Bayes, Vice President for the San Angelo Convention and Visitors Bureau said.

According to Bayes, these event planners took the second airline into consideration when scheduling their upcoming and future events as well as conventions and meetings.

“Business travelers make up a significant portion of the travel and tourism industry,” Bayes said.

While most people may think of weekend trips, it is actually business-related travel that creates a steady stream of visitors to the area.

“It all starts with a visit. If they come for a meeting or convention, they can look at our community and see what there is to see and do, what to offer, they may come back for a vacation with their family or they may relocate here whether that’s a move with their family or to relocate their business here,” Bayes said.

Bayes says, these types of scenarios happen more often than people may realize. She also notes that medical tourism brings in hundreds of visitors as well.

“In a normal year, our hotels are at about 65 percent occupancy so if you look at that with around 2,800 rooms, 1,400 to 1,800 people a day are staying in our properties,’ Bayes said.

These visitors are also crucial to the tax-payer’s wallet. In 2019 if not for hotel stays and taxes, San Angelo residents would have had to pay more than $600 extra on their yearly taxes to the state according to Bayes.

To learn more about the San Angelo Convention and Visitors Bureau, click here.

To learn more about Mathis Field, click here.

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