COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
Columbia Regional Airport received a grant for $800,000 from the U.S. Department of Transportation Small Community Air Service Development Program.
The grant will help provide a revenue guarantee and marketing support for proposed nonstop daily American Airlines flights to Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
American Airlines has not agreed to add a flight yet, but the Columbia Convention and Visitor's Bureau said an added flight could provide major financial benefits to Columbia.
"Having that kind of eastern gateway would be really great for us to kind of appeal to new bases of people who've maybe never been to Columbia before," said Megan McConachie with the Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Several entities, including the Convention and Visitors Bureau and the University of Missouri, sent letters of support for Columbia to receive the grant.
The letter from the Convention and Visitors Bureau noted Columbia has several big events like Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival and True/False Film Festival. It also said tourism is an important industry in Missouri, Boone County and Columbia bringing 11,000 jobs annually and over $412 million to the area last year alone.
The letter from the University of Missouri said having options for travel is crucial to recruiting faculty, staff and students.
McConachie said having more ways for people to get to Columbia makes it easier to attract events like sporting events, conventions or more.
"The more places that it is easy to access Columbia from, the more places we can go out and try and sell our destination," McConachie said.
The bureau hires a research firm each year to ask Columbia visitors where they came from. McConachie said as COU has added more flights the number of people taking flights to visit Columbia has also increased.
She said visitors who travel to Columbia by plane typically spend more money because they are in Columbia longer, which boosts the local economy.
"Also, when we have a new area that we're flying to and from that really taps into a whole group of people who may have never even considered visiting Columbia," she said. "So that is kind of an influx of a possibility of new tourism spending coming into the market."
McConachie said her team is able to target advertisements for Columbia to audiences who have access to flights using digital advertisements. She said if American Airlines adds a flight to Charlotte that is something the bureau would look at.
"We would definitely kind of explore what sort of flight traffic comes in and out of Charlotte, and then we would have to decide, you know, what sort of investment we would want to make, where those funds would be deferred from, and so it's kind of just finding that right mix" she said.
She said they change and optimize campaigns depending on the response they get.
"This campaign about food is doing really well here, we can push a little bit more funding there. So it's all about just seeing what's working, seeing what people are responding to," she said.