Kelowna now has the numbers to back up it’s claim that its airport is a significant economic driver in this region.
According to an economic impact study commissioned by the airport, Kelowna International Airport had a total economic impact for the province of $610 million in 2010.
Locally, the direct impact of the airport and the business that operate at it contributed $300 to local economy last year.
Part of the total impact included accounting for 2,730 direct and indirect jobs. The airport, and it’s associated businesses on site accounted directly for 1,400 of those jobs, generating $70 million in wages and benefits. Some 83 per cent of the jobs at the airport are full-time positions.
“The report shows the airport is a significant economic player,” said YLW director Sam Samaddar.
Unlike many other major airports in Canada, the Kelowna airport is owned by the city. It is currently the 10th busiest in the country and last year saw just under 1.4 million passengers pass through its terminal.
Earlier this week, the economic impact study was presented to Kelowna council.
“I am very pleased with the direction of Kelowna International Airport,” said Kelowna Mayor Sharon Shepherd, the chair of the local airport advisory committee.
“The numbers in this report reinforce the economic importance this airport has to our city, the Interior of B.C. and to the province as a whole.”
Samaddar noted that while the airport is technically a city department, it remains financially self-supporting and does not rely on taxpayer money to operate.
Currently it is embarking on a multi-phase 10-year expansion plan, with the immediate emphasis on the next five years as it hopes to increase it’s passenger numbers to 1.6 million per year. The expansion is being funded through the facility’s airport improvement fee.
The report, the first time an overall economic impact of the airport has been measured, shows the facility not only stands on its own and generates an significant economic output, it also helps other industries here particularly trade and tourism.
Samaddar said he was particularly interested to read in the report that the daily flights to Calgary alone account for a surprising total of 16 person years of employment and $950,000 in wages per year at YLW. “To me, that was a real eye opener,” he said.
The information in the report is expected to be a huge benefit for businesses trying to sell this market in other part of the country and the world.
Kelowna International Airport offers 62 daily non-stop commercial flights with Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, Central Mountain Air and WestJet to Vancouver, Victoria, Prince George, Edmonton, Calgary, Regina, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Hamilton, and Seattle, including seasonal service to Las Vegas, Los Cabos, Puerto Vallarta and Cancun.
Passengers travelling to major airports such as Vancouver, Seattle and Toronto can then catch flights that will take them to other locations around the world. In some cases, such as with Alaska Airlines flying to Seattle, booking can be made directly from Kelowna with the same airline.
In recent years, as Kelowna’s airport has become much more of a regional hub, nearby communities with their own smaller airports, such as Kamloops and Penticton, have seen passenger driving to Kelowna to fly out of the airport here, said Samaddar.