Here at tdg, we love the travel industry. We’ve been working with travel and tourism clients since we were founded more than two decades ago. Travel and hospitality is a fun business, and Rapid City Regional Airport - one of our early clients - was a lot of fun to work with.
When we first began working with Rapid City Regional Airport, the facility faced a classic supply-demand dilemma. The airlines were reluctant to increase service without stronger year-round demand. Travelers, especially visitors during the all-important summer tourist season, weren’t flying here because they found the supply of flights, seats and affordable tickets lacking.
While the airport partnered with regional tourism entities to promote the community as a vacation destination, it was clear that this strategy wouldn’t be enough. RCRA needed to increase year-round outbound traffic as well. Higher load factors would entice airlines to increase service, which in turn would make the Black Hills more attractive to tourists - filling more seats.
That’s where tdg came in. We worked with RCRA to develop a strategy for marketing to outbound passengers in their own communities. We focused on the slowest travel months - November through March - and developed messaging to build passenger numbers during those times. Our approach: remind people that it’s really, really cold in South Dakota during winter, and that they could step on a plane in Rapid City and step off somewhere warm and sunny. We also reminded them of unique local advantages such as short security lines and easy parking.
The campaign grew to include out-of-home, newspaper advertising, television, and targeted online buys. We also developed a social media campaign to engage the local community with giveaways and promotions.
Outbound passenger numbers grew during the slower months, which helped push overall traffic numbers higher. Between 2007 and 2010, at the height of the Great Recession, departures grew from 236,000 to 283,000 - a 20 percent increase. At the same time, studies during the campaign indicated that leakage - people in the local service area choosing to depart from a different airport - had declined.
Meanwhile, airline options expanded at RCRA. United added direct service to Chicago. American entered the market with direct service to Dallas and Chicago. Allegiant launched routes to Las Vegas and Phoenix. Delta added seasonal nonstop service to Atlanta.