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Shifting world events, uncertainty in the Middle East, a sluggish economy and the lingering effects of terrorist attacks on America are all factors that continue to weigh heavily on an already troubled air travel industry. These challenges underscore the importance of developing proactive measures to protect airport parking revenues that have been negatively impacted by decreased enplanements, off-airport competition and increased security requirements.
Building upon a partnership with an airport client, a parking operator must be able to accurately assess a wide array of facility use factors and develop long-term strategies to maximize revenue and improve operating efficiencies.
Parking bans within 300 feet of airport terminals during heightened alerts and the restriction of terminal concourse access to ticketed passengers are two factors that have dramatically affected short-term parking demand. In some cases, short-term demand has decreased more than 30 percent from pre-9/11 levels. Most industry experts believe that the security measures will continue indefinitely, making it imperative that operators work with their airport clients to encourage the most efficient use of this parking space inventory.
Many airports experience severe congestion on the terminal access roadways as cars circulate to pick up arriving passengers. This phenomenon becomes even more problematic for airport security during heightened alerts, when curb dwell times are prohibited. Parking operators and airports that experience this problem should consider promoting greater use of short-term parking through a no-charge grace period, typically the first one-half hour.
If properly promoted, this approach can result in less curb congestion and increased short-term parking revenues. While it is true that a grace period will have some initial negative effect on revenues, the decline will be more than offset by revenues from short-term patrons that stay well beyond the grace period. The parking operator must be prepared to advise airports on the financial effects of these changes through analysis of existing short-term volumes and projections of the additional demand necessary to offset the revenues lost to the grace period.
The proper mix
Through ongoing demand analysis, parking operators can determine if an adjustment in short-term and long-term space allocation is required. If a peak demand analysis indicates a significant underutilization of existing short-term spaces within a facility, airports must consider the potential benefits of reallocating unused space into the long-term area. Prior to the space being reallocated, airports need to be mindful of the 300-foot rule. Parking operators can help develop the most cost-effective strategy to achieve reallocation through an analysis of ingress/egress, internal traffic flow, ramping systems, pedestrian circulation and signage.
While reallocation does not, by itself, generate additional revenue, it positions many airports to actively target new market share from off-airport competition. During the economic boom of the 1990s, many airports saw an increase in off-airport operators that employed an effective mix of price and convenience to build patronage. Parking operators can now play an important role in helping airports recapture business from these off-airport locations.
Airports and parking operators can ensure that the parking experience is customer friendly by offering an attractive range of parking options and customer amenities.
Options and amenities
To attract a broad base of patrons, airports must offer a variety of parking options that address both price and convenience. Operators can contribute to the success of these options through added value services and amenities, particularly as they relate to premium services such as valet and VIP parking. At Standard Parking, we have developed unique customer services amenities such as Gifts-To-Go, CarCare, Films-To-Go, Books-To-Go, Little Parkers and our new Standard Road Assist program. The value and conveniences added by such programs are critical to building customer loyalty and, therefore, repeat business.
Use of technology
Advances in technology have made it possible to significantly reduce operating costs and increase customer service at many airports across the country. Automated credit card exiting, central cashiering, pay-on-foot and AVI systems are examples of technologies that serve to augment traditional cashier exiting. These automated options often are the first choice of frequent airport patrons as their efficiencies typically result in faster processing than traditional cashiering. Standard Parking has chosen to offer our clients access to a menu of revenue control and access products via the creation of our Advanced Parking Technology division. This internal investment in design, specification, bid, installation and maintenance capability has been instrumental in allowing us to effectively integrate appropriate cost-saving technology into our client airport operations and to improve customer service through expanded ingress and egress solutions.
Clear and visible signage is essential to eliminating anxiety often felt by customers attempting to navigate complex airport roadways. Internal signs that fail to direct patrons to exits or adequately remind customers where they have parked exacerbate the problem. Standard Parking has developed a unique musical theme floor reminder system designed to provide a customer with a lasting impression of the car's location. Our patented theme floor approach frequently employs local themes and helps create a friendly environment within the facility.
Airports can realize significant savings and efficiencies through consolidation of services into a broad-based landside management services contract. By selecting one operator having a broad depth of airport experience to provide and manage a full range of landside services -- such as parking; employee and public transportation; cab starting; and facility maintenance -- airports can reduce labor and overhead costs and at the same time benefit from a cross trained labor pool. This single-source approach also allows airports to focus greater control on these disciplines and provide a more consistent product and image.
Airports that respond proactively to the complex challenges facing the industry today will be well-positioned to benefit during better times. Parking operators play a vital role in helping their airport clients create a user-friendly customer environment that promotes growth and takes advantage of operating efficiencies through technology and consolidation of services.
Jack Ricchiuto is Executive Vice President, Airports, Standard Parking. He can be reached via Parking Today at
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Six Ways to Maximize Airport Revenue
1. Stimulate demand in short-term parking.
2. Convert unused short-term to long-term parking.
3. Create an environment for growth.
4. Institute parking options and amenities.
5. Effectively use technology.
6. Install good signage and customer reminder systems.