Colorado Springs has been busy putting out the welcome mat for such companies as Amazon and In-N-Out Burger, but the most sought-after resident, Southwest Airlines, is finally coming to town, and city leaders couldn’t be happier.
“Denver has grown into one of Southwest’s largest focus cities, and the central location has served them very well,” Phillips says. “Challenges with COVID-19 had Southwest looking at different strategies and other revenue opportunities, and Colorado Springs caught their attention.”
Phillips says that, although Southwest had already done its homework, a visit to see the facility and a tour of our vibrant community conducted by city leaders demonstrated that Colorado Springs is a city on the rise, and a significant public and private investment also helped seal the deal.
Once plans were solidified, the airport was able to start preparing for the airline’s arrival. “They have made a significant investment in Colorado Springs. It’s unique and special and frankly at a particularly difficult time,” Phillips says. “The opportunity falls back on us to help them be successful.”
Known for its low fares, Southwest also adds value by promoting a culture that fosters a fun flying experience and no hidden or additional fees for things such as checked bags or changes to an itinerary. It also offers a frequent-flyer program and bundling options and specials when planning a vacation.
Phillips says the airport is poised and ready to handle the increased volume in the main terminal. Although certain times of the day, such as early morning, will be busier, and travelers should plan ahead, overall, no major adjustments are being made at the airport.
And although having additional airline service will benefit those flying out of Colorado Springs, Doug Price, president and CEO of Visit Colorado Springs, says the impact will be significant for event and meeting planners as well. “Conventions are big business for us even without a convention center,” Price says. “And now, with the ease of access and competitive fares, this makes life so much easier.”
Price says the economic impact to tourism as a result of the pandemic has been challenging and the addition of Southwest Airlines could not have come at a better time. He notes that meeting planners all over the country are excited about Colorado Springs because of our climate, array of hotel offerings, and great attractions, including the Pikes Peak Cog Railway and the newly constructed Pikes Peak Summit House, both of which are scheduled to open in May.
“We are well positioned to receive tourists,” Price says. “This is just one more asset for us to leverage and to build on for our future. It adds to our quality of life, and it’s game-changing in every way.”
The Broadmoor, which attributes more than half of its room-night volume to groups and conventions, is also banking on the success of Southwest traffic. Pepper Dombroski, director of sales, says having an additional airline carrier and year-round routes could mean a boost of some 15% in business for The Broadmoor, especially during the off-season. She says there are sales strategies in place specifically for the Chicago, Dallas, and Phoenix routes, but new pieces of business could come from anywhere, especially the northeast and southeast. “The ease of access is making the difference and changing the conversation for us,” Dombroski says. “It’s a 20-minute drive from the airport to The Broadmoor as opposed to a drive from Denver International Airport, essentially adding another leg to the trip.”
Dombroski says The Broadmoor began its sales and marketing efforts immediately once the plans were known in an effort to help the presale numbers for Southwest. She says a joint marketing effort with Southwest is also in the works.
Price is urging everyone to check airfares to and from Colorado Springs before automatically booking out of Denver. “Look before you book,” he says. “The way this becomes successful is checking the Southwest fares. Both business and leisure travelers can take advantage of Southwest at the Colorado Springs Airport and not have the hassle of driving to or from Denver.”
Phillips is a little more candid on the subject. “Half-full airplanes over a number of months will result in a short experiment and have Southwest questioning their tactics,” he says. “These aren’t normal times, and Southwest is betting on us to rise to the occasion.”