Make us your home page
Instagram

Pinellas backs TIA plan to add international flights

In a gesture of regional self-interest, Pinellas tourism officials indicated they are open to kicking in tax money to help attract new flights to Tampa International Airport.

Tampa International chief executive Joe Lopano presented the county's Tourist Development Council with his strategy to tackle TIA's biggest problem: the anemic schedule of nonstop flights to international overseas destinations.

The centerpiece will be the airport's first incentive program for airlines that launch new routes, he said. Specifics are still being hammered out. But the airport won't charge landing fees or certain terminal rents for up to two years, Lopano said.

Airports and community groups routinely put up money to advertise new destinations. That's where the Tourist Development Council comes in.

The panel of local elected officials and tourism businesses executives controls the 5 percent tax on temporary lodging such as hotel and motel rooms. It generates about $25 million annually that must be spent for promoting tourism in Pinellas.

The council put $250,000 for promoting new airline service in its budget for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1, said D.T. Minich, executive director of Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater.

Lopano didn't just come out and ask for money. He talked about the airport and county working as partners in marketing a region that's often overlooked for its size and economic clout.

Each week, Tampa averages just 24 nonstop flights outside the United States, composed mostly of flights to Canada and British Airways' daily flight to London. That puts TIA far behind Miami International (1,300 nonstop international flights), Fort Lauderdale (359) and Orlando International and nearby Orlando Sanford International combined (199).

The meager selection forces many Tampa Bay residents to travel to Miami or Orlando for direct international flights. Tampa International needs to convince airlines those travelers and others from as far south as Fort Myers could help fill a new overseas flight from Tampa, Lopano said.

Officials have targeted five potential international destinations: Frankfurt, Germany; Panama City, Panama; Mexico City; Sao Paulo, Brazil; and Bogota, Colombia.

"We will be the international gateway for the west coast of Florida," Lopano said. "We will win as a team."

"I love your attitude," said County Commission Chairwoman Susan Latvala.

Minich made it clear the marketing money isn't just for Tampa International Airport. He said he wants to strike a deal with Air France to make Pinellas County the official beach destination of its new flights to Orlando International Airport.

But Lopano said it's in the best interest of the Pinellas tourism industry to bring more international visitors to Tampa International Airport.

"Real people in the region will benefit," he said. "Hoteliers, taxi cab drivers will benefit when the region is successful."

Steve Huettel can be reached at huettel@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3384.

Pinellas backs TIA plan to add international flights 06/08/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 8, 2011 9:29pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Who's best global airline? Qatar Airways takes No. 1 spot but Delta tops U.S. carriers

    Airlines

    The good news? Delta Airlines tops all U.S. airlines in a new Skytrax global airline passenger satisfaction survey of the world's best airlines. The bad news? At No. 32, Delta still ranks behind dozens of Middle East, Asian and some European airlines. For Tampa International Airport and the major airlines that operate …

    Southwest Airlines, the biggest carrier at Tampa International Airport, improved its customer satisfaction rating among global airlines in a recent survey.
[Times file photo]
  2. Vinoy resort will ask St. Petersburg voters to approve new parking garage (with tennis courts on top)

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club is undergoing a $50 million redevelopment and part of that plan calls for building a new one-story parking garage over eight existing tennis courts.

    The Vinoy Renaissance Resort and Golf Club is undergoing a $50 million redevelopment. The Vinoy wants to build a one-story parking garage as part of that project, in place of eight existing tennis courts. The tennis courts would be moved on top of the garage, which would hold 270 parking spots. But the Vinoy needs St. Petersburg voters to approve the project in a November referendum. This is an artists' rendering of the new garage from the street. [Courtesy of Vinoy Renaissance Resort and Golf Club]
  3. House committee passes Florida-sponsored flood insurance bill

    Banking

    The House Financial Services Committee pushed through a Florida-sponsored bill intended to cut flood insurance costs. If passed, the bipartisan bill would help create a marketplace for private flood insurance.

    A House committee passed a Florida-sponsored bill meant to lower flood insurance rates.
[Times file photo]
  4. 3 new restaurants open: Deccan Spice Indian food, Farmacy Vegan Kitchen, the Cake Shop

    Food & Dining

    DECCAN SPICE

    Deccan Spice has opened at 2325 Ulmerton Road, in what used to be the elegant and vast Grand Siam space in Feather Sound. It's getting high marks so far for its traditional Indian lunch buffet, and offers a range of southern Indian dishes (vadas and dosas and idlis, oh my) seldom seen …

    Farmacy Vegan Kitchen + Bakery serves wraps, acai bowls, smoothies and juices and plant-based baked goods like strawberry cupcakes. Photo courtesy of Charles Rumph.
  5. The driver who died in a Tesla crash in Florida using Autopilot ignored 7 safety warnings

    Autos

    When Joshua Brown's Tesla slammed into the side of a tractor-trailer last year at more than 70 miles per hour, the fatal accident became the world's first known car crash involving a partly autonomous vehicle.

    Tesla requires its drivers to keep their hands on the wheel even when Autopilot is engaged. A crash in Florida showed that the driver was warned to keep his hands on the steering wheel.  (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) TXTG101