Out to Lunch with Laura Jackson: Talking Travel, Ski Season, and the Growing Resort Market

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Laura Jackson serves as the Vice President of Air Service Development for Denver International Airport.

Ski season has touched down in Colorado, winter is underway, and tourists from around the world are packing up and heading to resort towns in the Rockies. During this time of year there are thousands of planes, trains, and automobiles filled with skiers and snowboarders anxiously awaiting the moment they get to hit the slopes.

There is perhaps no one else who understands the volume of airline traffic coming and going through Colorado better than Laura Jackson. Jackson serves as the Vice President of Air Service Development for Denver International Airport (DIA) where she works to retain airlines and recruit new ones to maintain and improve the airport’s flight offerings. This particular airport, which sees about 1,640 flights per day, acts as a gateway to the mountains for many travelers as they head into ski resort towns.

“There has actually been an increase in the number of nonstop flights into resort towns. This shows us the strength of the economy in those areas and the demand from skiers for non-stop flights,” explained Jackson. “We are happy to see growth in the ski resort communities.”

During the ski season, there is also a rise in international travelers making the journey to colorful Colorado in search of fresh powder and gorgeously groomed ski slopes. This goes to show that Colorado is home to some of the best skiing in the world. In fact, Vail Mountain Resort, Colorado’s largest resort, is regularly named as one of the top places to ski on Earth. With this kind of terrain, it’s no wonder people cross continents and oceans to get the chance to ski and snowboard here.

“Although winter is actually a slower time for travel, we do see an increase in international flights coming into Denver,” noted Jackson. “A significant percentage of the international flights coming in during this time of year are arriving from Mexico, Argentina, New Zealand, and Australia.”

As Colorado increases in popularity among travelers, so does the traffic at DIA. In order to compensate for the extra travelers, the airport utilizes roughly 170 additional staff members in the terminals during the holiday season, which partially coincides with ski season. The airport is also working on new capital enhancement projects that will help DIA handle the growing number of annual travelers. When the airport was built in 1995, it was only meant to accommodate 50 million people. The average number of people who use the airport has now grown to about 64.5 million and is expected to grow to 69 million next year. One of the projects that will improve DIA is the addition of 39 new gates. The construction of the new gates will allow for more flights to come in and out of the airport, increasing convenience for travelers.

“We are consistently focused on getting people to their terminals as efficiently as possible. The expansion, renovation, and update projects are aimed at making the airport more peaceful and less stressful,” commented Jackson.

Regional resort town airports are also working on providing better experiences to their travelers. For example, The Eagle County Regional Airport, a smaller airport based in the Vail Valley, has seen a 12% increase in traffic over the last five years and has added more non-stop flights to major cities like Chicago because of the growth, according to David Reid, Director of Aviation. The added flights will encourage more visitors to make the trip to the Vail Valley and boost the surrounding communities’ economy.

The continued growth of DIA benefits not just Denver, but all airports in Colorado as they work together to provide better experiences and more flight options for the travelers they serve. “The success of other Colorado airports only bolsters our own. We all succeed together for the sake of the customer,” said Jackson. The number of connecting and direct flights into ski-focused towns will only improve as time goes on – good news for skiers flying into the state and even better news for the resort communities that rely on seasonal tourists.

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