Milt Fort wants to help build partnerships to promote tourism.
The marketing director of the Mesa, Ariz., Convention and Visitors Bureau was in the Tri-Cities on Tuesday to share ideas about how the Tri-Cities and Mesa can help each other to build tourist traffic once Allegiant Air's nonstop, low-cost flight from Pasco to Phoenix-Mesa starts late November.
"This is an opportunity for both communities," said Jim Morasch, Tri-Cities Airport director, who met Fort together with Kim Shugart, vice president of operations at Tri-Cities Visitor & Convention Bureau.
"We can work with them to secure new leisure travelers," Shugart said.
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A recent study sponsored by the Mesa visitors bureau showed the airline -- the only one to serve Mesa -- brought a steady stream of visitors from more than a dozen communities it flies to and from in winter, and that in summer a large number of people from Mesa and neighboring communities traveled to areas served by Allegiant Air.
That made Allegiant expand existing services and add new routes, Fort said, adding Mesa, which has a population of about 480,000, is now connected to 15 cities through Allegiant.
Both bureaus can have links on each other's websites to promote travel packages, and share kiosk space for visitor information at their local airports, Fort said.
As part of an awareness campaign about the twice-a-week round-trip Pasco-Mesa flight, the Mesa visitors bureau will give away a hotel/entertainment package at the Nov. 5 annual meeting of Tri-Cities Visitor & Convention Bureau, Fort said.
Shugart said she hopes Allegiant will provide two complimentary round-trip tickets for travel to Mesa at the drawing, which is open to the public. For the last few years, Allegiant has been giving out complimentary tickets for travel from Pasco to Vegas to the winner, she said.
She said the new Pasco-Mesa flight can be a huge draw for Mesa residents needing to escape the heat in the summer months. Golf, wine and the Columbia River will help attract them to the Tri-Cities, she said.
The new Allegiant flight also will help increase passenger boardings at the Tri-Cities Airport, Morasch said. The loss of a nonstop flight to Minneapolis, and reduction in service to Salt Lake City led to a drop of 4,025 boardings in September, from a record high of 24,722 boardings in July, Morasch said.
Allegiant plans to use a 150-seat, MD-80 series jet for the Pasco-Mesa flight.
More passengers mean more potential grants from the government and additional revenue for the airport, Morasch said.
Fort said the expansion of Allegiant service in Mesa helped the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport get $8.9 million from the Federal Aviation Administration to improve the airport, where passenger boardings have increased from 37,000 in 2007 to 400,000 in 2008. The boardings are expected to reach 600,000 by year end, Fort said.
The Mesa visitors bureau also plans to put up a sign at the Tri-Cities Airport to encourage people to explore Arizona, he said.
w Pratik Joshi: 582-1541; firstname.lastname@example.org; Business Beat blog at www.tricityherald.com