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Air service area’s big problem
by Harry Spencer
Apr 15, 2013 | 1926 views | 0 0 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The recent news that the Safari Club had canceled an upcoming convention scheduled for Reno because of inadequate air service should be a wake-up call for all those that promote tourism.

“You can’t get there from here,” has been the complaint for a number of years for people that live outside the Truckee Meadows. Horror stories of having to divert to faraway places like Denver, San Jose and Salt Lake City in order to get a flight to Reno has long been a major complaint for not only tourists but residents of The Biggest Little City.

Since we have lost a third of the flights we had in 2008, it is time to address this very serious problem. Certainly it is up to the RSCVA to be the leader in seeking new air service. Joining with the RSCVA would seem to be the responsibility of the larger hotel casinos. The Airport Authority itself is little qualified or staffed adequately to send its representatives to call upon major airlines.

At one time, Reno was well served by the now defunct Reno Air. It has long been rumored that the airline was once for sale and could have been purchased by the aforementioned hotel casinos. Too bad they missed that opportunity. In the days that Reno Air existed, the local airport became a “hub” for West Coast travel. Also the Reno Air planes themselves served as a flying billboard for The Biggest Little City. I can recall many instances when I would fly into various cities in California and see the emblazoned “Reno” on many aircraft parked on the tarmac.

Years ago, when Reno suffered a similar downturn in air services, the proactive Chamber of Commerce, in concert with the Durkee Travel Agency, set up the Reno “Fun Flight.” It consisted of having a package deal for visitors who would arrive here by air. In some respects it was the aerial version of the Reno “Fun Train.” Later that same Chamber and Durkee added a Reno “Drive-Up” package for those wishing to avail themselves of the highway.

To sell these “packages” to various travel agencies, who would in turn merchandise them to the public, the Chamber sent their ace salesman, Don Burke, on the road. In addition to his peddling of the triumvirate of packages, the enterprising Burke had a giant slot machine constructed which was all of six feet tall. On weekends, he would trailer the slot machine to various shopping centers in nearby California and offer “free” play to the many residents of the Golden State. Instead of cash jackpots, players could win free room nights, meals and floor shows as their rewards.

At that time, the Chamber was well-funded by the fact that it collected and spent the room tax. When the RSCVA took over that function all promotions ceased. Maybe it’s time to return to the old ways.

Rather than spending millions of dollars to create new slogans, we should invest those dollars in creating a strong sales force with something to sell and put them on the road.

Harry Spencer is a long-time northern Nevada resident.
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