YVRA employees rate high

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Employees at Yampa Valley Regional Airport rated high, and airport facilities rated low in a recent customer satisfaction survey.

Almost all those surveyed said the airport is important to the area.

The research project, sponsored by the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., Routt County, the city of Steamboat Springs, and the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, began in mid-December. The most recent report gives results through Jan. 24.

Four hundred fifty-six surveys have been conducted. By winter's end, Andy Wirth, vice president of sales and marketing for Ski Corp., said he expects the study to have collected 2,500 to 3,500 surveys.

Better understanding about how customers view the air services and what they think could be improved or changed, are important to consider when talking about how to fund the air program and how to make it better, Wirth said.

The need for such research has been known for years, but this project got going about six months ago, he said.

Some of the key results so far include:

n Airline employees were rated an average of 8 on a scale of 1 to 10, a result that Wirth said was "outstanding." Airport facilities, however, were rated 7 on the same scale, gate area seating availability was rated 6.7, and concession services were rated 6.4, on average. Wirth said those numbers mean, "We have an inadequate airport facility that's staffed by an outstanding group of employees." The facility problems should be lessened soon as the airport expansion and renovation continues.

n The availability of desired dates for flights was rated 8.1 on average; the efficiency of baggage claim was rated 7.6, and the cost of flights was rated 7.0, on average.

n Of the users to date, 5 percent were residents, half of which were flying out of the airport for business purposes, and the rest of whom were flying out for vacations, family visits or other reasons. Second-home owners were 9 percent of the users, and visitors were the remaining 86 percent. Those percentages could change as more locals fly out during the winter for breaks and other reasons, Wirth said.

n Visitors stayed an average of 6.0 nights and skied an average of 4.2 days, and they spent $4,000 on average, without the cost of plane tickets. Half of that cost was for lodging, about 20 percent was for lift tickets and ski lessons, 20 percent was for restaurants, 7 percent was for retail, and 5 percent was for other expenses.

n More than half all users rated the air service as "extremely important" in their decision to visit Steamboat.

n Seventy-seven percent of visitors said they had not come to the area during the summer. That, Wirth said, speaks to the "tremendous opportunities" to bring winter guests back for the summer.

The survey's questionnaire covers details about airport facilities, employees and why customers use the airport, as well as how those factors could affect their intent of returning. It also allows customers to give open comments, which are not quantified but give important insight, Wirth said.

"This adds objectivity to what many people feel are the strengths and weaknesses of the current facility and air program," he said. "We move away from the anecdotal and subjective thoughts and into the objective."

The other benefit of the research is that it provides baseline data as the airport enters a "new era," Wirth said, with its terminal expansion and improvements continuing this summer.

The project will cost between $9,000 and $11,000, Wirth said.

RRC Associates, a Boulder-based research firm, designed the survey, has trained Steamboat Ambassadors to give it to airport users and is compiling results. Surveys are conducted while passengers wait for their planes to leave.

-- To reach Susan Cunningham, call 871-4203 or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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