INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Convention organizers are concerned that a fall in the number of direct flights between Indianapolis and other cities could hurt their chance of attracting big events.
A $275 million expansion of the downtown convention center added hotel space and made Indianapolis a more viable option. But the decline in nonstop flights is a problem, said Leonard Hoops CEO of Visit Indy, the city's tourism agency.
"As we've grown, it's opened us up to a larger pool of convention business, but that pool increasingly prefers better air lift than Indianapolis currently has," Hoops told the Indianapolis Business Journal for a story published Monday (http://www.ibj.com/ ).
Indianapolis International Airport has an average of 140 daily nonstop flights to 34 destinations. That's down from 176 daily nonstop flights to 45 airports in 2008.
By comparison, Denver has 802 daily direct flights to 170 locations and St. Louis has 236 daily nonstops to 61 places.
"Indianapolis has a lot going for it, but its biggest detraction is its accessibility by air," said Dirk Ebener, CEO of Nuernberg Messe, an Atlanta-based convention management company. "If convention organizers think the lack of nonstop flights will hurt attendance, they'll stay away."
Some attendees at the CEDIA electronics trade show in Indianapolis last month complained that they wasted too much time making connecting flights — especially from California.
"I have complained massively about this," said Jerry Del Colliano, publisher of Los Angeles-based Hometheaterreview.com, who attended this year's show. "Air access to Indianapolis is absolutely awful. It's really hurting attendance at the show there."
The electronics show drew 25,000 people when it was in Denver in 2008 and 20,700 in Atlanta in 2010.
Del Colliano said most CEDIA members are glad that the Indianapolis-based organization is moving its trade show to Denver next year.
"Time is money, and a lot of dealers can't afford to waste a day traveling to and from a trade show," Del Colliano said. "It's too bad, because Indianapolis has a beautiful airport and a nice convention center."
Other cities have offered airlines financial incentives to add flights, although Indianapolis has been hesitant to follow.
"Offering incentives and money is one way to attract nonstop flights, but there are other ways," Matney said.
A less costly alternative is to demonstrate or guarantee a consistent customer base for certain routes, he said.
"We have to face this challenge one market at a time," Matney said.
Information from: Indianapolis Business Journal, http://www.ibj.com