So, you get a sudden influx of potential buyers for your product. You know that the window of opportunity won’t last forever, so you jump at the opportunity to take advantage of that market share while it exists, right?
Not if you’re in Western New York government. They’re more attuned to simply ignoring the opportunity.
Yesterday’s Buffalo News article on Toronto’s attempts to lure airline passenger traffic back to Canada (and away from Buffalo) made no mention that ticket pricing and ease of travel are cyclic and fleeting. Not very long ago Buffalo was one of the worst places to travel from because of inordinately high pricing and few choices. Today it ranks in the top five nationwide for low-cost airfares. It will not stay there forever.
Meanwhile, the obvious growth in international traffic to and from the airport would look to be an opportunity worth exploiting yet little (if anything) has been done to exploit it. Erie County in particular should be taken to the woodshed for all the politics and the stonewalling of funding for the Convention and Visitors Bureau, a bureau already established to market Western New York. A few simple and low cost CVB market initiatives might include:
- Just making the entire airport experience better (like in Charlotte, where they put white rocking chairs in the terminals) would be an inexpensive and attractive public relations coup. I suggest Amish rockers instead. With various local restaurant advertising on the seat backs. And maps.
- Reduced parking at intentionally faraway lots (like Grand Island or Fort Erie) that include free and regular bus service and a tour guide to describe historical places and events within Western New York, for the 20 minutes that passengers would be a captive audience. College kids would suck this up for easy money. Guys on the comedy circuit could hone their material. Politicians could even make guest appearances.
- A flood of airport literature and television advertising focused on the Canadian market and things you can do in four hours or less. Like shop at the Galleria, or visit the Casinos. Or visit Letchworth State Park in the fall, or Taste of Buffalo in July.
Others would have far better ideas than I.
There is a cost to every idea and a calculable return on investment. It does not take rocket science to figure that if one million Canadian passengers a year are using our airport, convincing just one or two percent to come back – or to extend their time in the area for just a few hours – means importing dollars from 10,000 or 20,000 more tourists who would otherwise simply use our expressways to and from Canada.
At the Buffalo Airport this morning I saw nothing to make me believe that after three or four years we have done anything to take advantage of this market. Toronto clearly wants to recapture that market and has started down that part of doing so. We are running out of time to turn a departure point into a destination.