New incentive could mean cheaper flights through Wilmington International Airport

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — More people could soon be flying to and from Wilmington International Airport after an agreement between the Tourism Development Authority and the New Hanover County Airport Authority could bring cheaper flights to the region.

The incentive uses money from the room occupancy tax, a six percent tax on hotel rooms. It could mean cheaper flights and direct flights to more locations.

The Tourism Development Authority voting in favor of a $125,000 incentive package to bring cheaper flight carriers to ILM.

“We know that low-cost carriers are used a good amount by the leisure traveler,” said Wilmington and Beaches Convention and Visitor’s Bureau’s Kim Hufham. “I know the airport was trying to target more leisure travelers because this has always been a very strong business travel airport.”

Instead of using taxpayer funds, the six percent room occupancy tax would fund the incentive. Hufham said that money will go towards advertising Wilmington through each new flight carrier in the new cities those flights go to.

“We’ll familiarize people with our destination, and hopefully they’ll use the flight and come into Wilmington and our beaches and visit,” Hufham continued.

Hufham said 85 percent of tourists drive into Wilmington. This could bring in more out of state visitors, and according to the Airport Authority’s Julia Olson-Boseman, be good for business.

“If we get more carriers in, we’ll get more development at businesses, the gate fees go down, and we’ll see lower air fares for our residents,” she explained. “That’s our goal: is to try and get our air fare down. Be more competitive.”

It could also mean more direct flights to big cities.

Olson-Boseman continued, “We’re looking at a couple direct nonstop flights to the Florida area through new carriers, possibly in the future to Minnesota and Denver, we’re hoping.”

And that’s not all. Boseman said the airport will continue to grow by leaps and bounds, with a possible big announcement this summer.

“I’m certain that a hotel is coming to the airport,” she said. “Or two.”

We reached out to ILM for comment. The Airport Authority’s Chairman, Donna Girardot responded:

“The airport team is working to expand beyond the 9 non-stop cities currently being served from ILM.  A dedicated commitment from the TDA and CVB to provide destination marketing support in a new non-stop market, which promotes our area to inbound travelers, plays an important role in the community’s efforts to attract new service.  We look forward to building upon our partnership with the TDA as we grow air service for our region; increasing the economic impact from tourism and hospitality industry as well as the overall economy.”

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