Buoyed by surging business travel and Traverse City’s growing reputation as a national destination, Cherry Capital Airport (TVC) is riding a wave of growth that started more than five years ago and shows no signs of slowing down.
In 2017 almost 477,000 travelers utilized the airport – its best year ever – and airport traffic continues to trend upward this year. TVC Executive Director Kevin Klein said there are numerous factors driving the airport’s success – not the least of which is the growing business travel both in to and out of the Grand Traverse region.
“Business travel is back,” Klein said. “People want to come in and do business with our companies.”
Klein said the national and even international clientele for local companies like Hagerty and Britten is generating extensive business travel at the airport. Area manufacturers are also generating passenger traffic, and the airlines that service the region are also building air service around specific activities including the event schedule at the Interlochen Center for the Arts and the Center for Automotive Research conference held each summer at the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa.
“The airlines have a good feel for our community,” Klein said. “They are very tuned in to what’s happening up here.”
The 2018 summer season will bring an unprecedented level of flight service to Northwest Michigan. The summer schedule which begins gearing up after Memorial Day includes Delta Air Lines flights to Detroit (daily), Minneapolis/St. Paul, Atlanta and New York. United Airlines will offer daily flights to Chicago along with regular trips to Newark, NJ and Denver. American Airlines will have daily flights to Chicago, along with service to the Dallas/Fort Worth and New York City markets.
While recreation travel represents a major portion of the summer business, Klein said business travelers are also well-served by the schedule as it allows locals to catch early-morning flights from Traverse City and connect with major airline hubs by mid-morning. Business travelers can often reach their destinations within a half-day, he said. Those service schedules are the result of extensive research on local travel patterns done by the airport and airlines back in 2013-14.
“That’s something that’s important to the business traveler,” Klein said. “We try to get a lot of information on where our travelers are going.”
Keeping up with those travel trends requires extensive work and research. Klein said he meets with airline representatives three to four times a year to review travel data and talk about how to improve service.
“We fine-tune things,” he said. “We’re always putting our business forward (to the airlines) to have them in our community…we’re always trying to put our best foot forward.”
The increased activity at Cherry Capital Airport is also generating major economic activity for the entire Grand Traverse region. A study last year from the Michigan Department of Transportation estimated the airport’s annual economic impact on the area at just under $1 billion – ranking it the third-highest airport in Michigan in terms of economic generation. Only the airports in Detroit and Grand Rapids were higher.
Klein is optimistic that those numbers will only continue to grow.
“I think we’re starting to attract more opportunities to our marketplace than ever before,” he said. “We’re the bright spot of Michigan.”