Our View: Smooth operator | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: Smooth operator

Yampa Valley Regional Airport Director Kevin Booth is predicting the airport's restaurant operations will break even by 2016, which is a major improvement for an operation that lost close to $600,000 over 2013 and 2014.

Booth and restaurant manager Jennifer Bell have accomplished the turnaround through tighter controls on food costs and payroll, and they are counting on a strategic expansion of the Way Finder snack bar in the secure passenger waiting area to boost business and improve the customer experience at the airport.

The change in restaurant operations is just one example of the positive impact Booth has had on the airport since taking over as airport director in January. Booth is proving he's an effective leader who knows how to get things done and who understands how important it is that visitors have a positive experience traveling in and out of Steamboat Springs.

Before deciding to create a more robust snack bar in the gate area, Booth and Bell met with local restaurateurs to get their advice on how the Three Wire Bar and Grill and Way Finder snack bar could be improved. We think it was smart business to meet with experts in the field before making changes to the airport's food and beverage service, and it is further proof of the airport director's solid judgment and willingness to cooperate with the larger business community.

Booth said the decision to expand the snack bar was based on the understanding that passengers are eager to get through security and reluctant to commit the time needed for a full-service meal at the restaurant in the main terminal.

Now, travelers will be able to get through security and wait for their flight while enjoying a burger and a microbrew from one of our local breweries. Seating at the Way Finder was expanded from 33 to 60, and stools were added along the windows so people can eat their meal while watching for their flight to come in.

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The restaurant is expected to end 2015 with a $69,175 deficit rather than the $195,030 loss projected in the budget, and next year, Booth is anticipating a $7,455 profit.

Since being named airport director, Booth has overseen a $16.6 million runway overlay project at YVRA that closed the airport for 70 days. He managed the shutdown admirably and kept the project moving forward with minimal delays due to weather.

Before the newly resurfaced runway re-opened June 25, Booth invited the community out to the airport for a grand re-opening celebration. There were free hamburgers and hot dogs, and people had the opportunity to walk, ride their bikes, skateboard or rollerblade on the runway. It was a great way to let the public know the airport was back in business, and it also reminded people that Yampa Valley Regional Airport is their airport.

Faced with declining passenger numbers and declining revenue, Booth has brought a can-do approach to operating YVRA, and we think the airport is in good hands.

During an April discussion with the Routt County Commission about the airport's 10-year master plan, an airport management consultant explained YVRA has been the slowest among seven mountain resort airports to recover passenger numbers in the wake of the recession. He said reduced passenger numbers erode revenue streams airports depend on and make it more expensive for airlines to serve YVRA.

In response to the consultant's report, Booth, who had been in his position for less than four months at the time, said he had already begun controlling airport expenses to create more room in the budget to build up airport reserves. He proposed delaying costly heavy equipment purchases and instead focusing on making modest capital investments to achieve longer-term cost savings — a common sense approach to improving the airport's fiscal picture.

Booth also seems to understand the significance of the airport to the tourism economy and how the airport can positively or negatively impact the guest experience. Oftentimes, the airport is the first and last impression visitors have of their trip to Steamboat Springs, and it factors into whether or not they plan to come back.

We are encouraged by some of the positive changes we see happening at Yampa Valley Regional Airport, and we give the lion's share of the credit to Booth. In our opinion, he is operating the airport as though it belongs to all of us, and that is a welcome development. These positive trends also bode well for the community as it continues to support flights at the airport through the quarter-cent sales tax, which will be up for renewal next fall.

Editorial board

Suzanne Schlicht, publisher and COO

Lisa Schlichtman, editor

Jim Patterson, assistant editor

Tom Ross, reporter

Diane Moore, community representative

Carl Steidtmann, community representative

At Issue

Restaurant operations at Yampa Valley Regional Airport are expected to turn a small profit in 2016 after years of large losses

Our View

YVRA Director Kevin Booth is an effective manager who is making positive changes at the airport that are improving the guest experience