Allegiant Air recently added two nonstop routes to Norfolk from Cincinnati and Cleveland.
Decisions to bring flight routes to particular airports depend on that area’s existing flights, costs, and air traffic.
In Norfolk’s case, where travelers want to go factored heavily into Allegiant’s decision.
“Both Cincinnati and Cleveland are high tourist origins for our region,” said Robert Bowen, Norfolk Airport Authority’s executive director. “Allegiant Air’s decision to launch service to Norfolk from Ohio was largely based on input from the Virginia Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau and the known origin of leisure and business travelers cited in research by the Virginia Tourism Corporation.”
That research cites travelers from Ohio as some of the top origins of tourist in Hampton Roads, as well as statewide.
Two percent of travelers to Hampton Roads are from Ohio, according to research from the VTC, with 2 percent of all leisure trips and 3 percent of all business trips to the state originating in Ohio. Those percentage points could represent tens of millions of dollars in economic impact.
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So why are so many people from Ohio visiting Hampton Roads?
Turns out, it’s part geography, part airline logistics, and part tourism considerations.
“Geographically, the Virginia coast is one of the closest warm weather beaches to Ohio,” said Charles Braden, director of market development for the Norfolk Airport Authority.
As to why Cincinnati and Cleveland, Braden said it is also a matter of logistics.
“Those are cities where Allegiant currently provides service, and Cincinnati is an operations base” for Allegiant, Braden said. “Getting into the weeds, Allegiant’s business model necessitates beginning and ending the day at an operations base,” so increasing flights to Cincinnati makes sense for Allegiant’s model as well.
According to the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, 47 percent of the U.S. population is within a one-day drive from Virginia. Nearly 9 out of 10 travelers to Virginia arrived by car, and only 8 percent by plane, according to the VTC’s research.
The additional flights to Cincinnati and Cleveland are an acknowledgment of the origin of some Hampton Roads tourists, but also an attempt at Allegiant to fly more of those tourists who drive Virginia.