LARGO — Jeff Clauss, director of Air Service Development and Marketing at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport, told Tourist Development Council members on Jan. 20 that 2021 was a “phenomenal growth year.”
He said that pre-pandemic (2019) the airport, also known as PIE, had celebrated eight consecutive years of recording institution. Thereafter, passenger numbers fell by 39% in 2020 before a sense of normalcy returned in 2021, with July and December both coming in with the most passengers in the airport’s history.
In the airport’s winter newsletter, airport director Toms Jodenbury, who was unable to attend the January 20 TDC meeting, said that PIE broke the 2 million passenger mark again last year.
In addition, the airport has added 11 destinations and two new airlines as it celebrates a 15th anniversary with Allegiant.
Allegiant added nine cities, including Bentonville, Arkansas; Fargo, North Dakota; Little Rock, Arkansas; Portsmouth, New Hampshire; Provo, Utah; Key West, Florida; and Wichita, Kansas. Two new flights will arrive: Akron/Canton, Ohio on March 4 and Clarksburg/Morgantown, West Virginia on March 11.
Swoop, a new Canadian airline, began operations in November to Toronto and Hamilton, Ontario. New Sun Country service to Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota also started in November. New charter service to Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, New Jersey began on Sun Country in July.
In the newsletter, Jodenbury reported that concessions were more profitable than even fiscal years 2021 to 2020 compared to a 49% increase in parking revenue; food and drink by 59%; news and gifts by 32%; rental cars by 36%; and ground transportation, including taxis, rideshares, Turo, free shuttles at 134%. Compared to FY 2021 with 2019, concession revenues were up 8%.
Clauss talked about the airport’s capital improvement projects, many of which were detailed in the winter newsletter. The projects include the relocation of the electric safe at the airport, the construction of toilets on the mobile phone lots and the replacement of gates 7-11 portals with exit lanes.
Upcoming projects include a new taxiway on the Airco site, an earlier golf course and airfreight platform, and the conversion of decommissioned runway 9 into a taxiway.
New restaurants in the works by PIE’s food and beverage concessionaire SSP America announced that Three Daughters Brewing will begin construction on Gates 2-6 in the near future and that The District Pub will move to the airport’s second floor. will come in a pre-security area.
Jacqui Hartnett, president of Starmark International, the airport’s newest marketing agency. She said that Starmark became the PIE agency in February 2021. She said the agency’s goal is to “make PIE famous.”
She discussed some of the activities Starmark had done to achieve its goal, including a new video in English and Spanish that highlights the destination and its many attractions. Starmark also uses social media to promote its ‘Tampa Bay the Easy Way’ campaign, which it said had reached more than 1.5 million people. The airport billboards have been updated, as have banners highlighting PIE’s non-stop destinations.
Suzette Porter is the editor of TBN in Pinellas County. She can be reached at email@example.com.