Air travellers who punch their ticket at other cities’ airports are invited to take part in a survey to gauge transportation demands of frequent and infrequent fliers.
The Penticton Economic Development Office has embarked on preliminary research with an online survey of questions for anyone in the South Okanagan or beyond who would like to fly into the local airport.
Officer David Arsenault said it will build on existing research about the airport and area, but is also intended to gauge the air transportation demands.
“We did a survey last year, but now with WestJet, there’s a buzz,” he said. “At the end of the day, these are business decisions. Regardless of what people want, it’s a business case.”
Penticton is in the midst of developing a comprehensive prospectus to build a business case that will entice WestJet to establish an eastern route among its proposed regional carrier offerings. The Calgary-based airline is looking to establish a fleet of 40 smaller, turbo-prop aircrafts for short-haul flights in a regional airline.
Arsenault said a host of statistical information must be included in a prospectus: population, tourism, events, development projects and Bellstar and Watermark projects, to name just a few.
“Business travel is really key to this decision,” he said, noting that firms that do business in Alberta and beyond should definitely fill out the survey.
There are also industries that have historically been difficult to measure. “We don’t know how to track the oil patch, but we know that’s significant,” Arsenault said.
The survey is not restricted to Penticton or South Okanagan residents either, he said.
“If you have an aunt in Calgary who would visit you more if she didn’t have to fly into Kelowna, send her the survey,” Arsenault said.
Penticton CAO Annette Antoniak said the airport select committee requested the city put aside money in its budget to conduct a proper analysis of air transportation demand. Parameters will be drawn up as early as next week for a consultant to conduct research, which communities like Red Deer and Nanaimo have sought out.
“That will be quite a deep analysis of exactly how much and what is the spinoff that is being lost as a result of not having more service here,” she said.
Antoniak said consultants in this field have tools otherwise unavailable to governments, such as the ability to track where people live compared to which airports they fly out of.
Airport projects also involve several complex layers, like federal regulations, that require specific expertise.
In the interim, Antoniak said the more information the city can gather in trying to lure WestJet, the better. “You want to get it out and make sure to put your best foot forward,” she said.
The link to the economic development online survey is at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/9LBRMNZ.