Tampa International Airport customers drank and ate more, rented more cars and chose, more often, to park in premium spaces during the second quarter of fiscal year 2014. That combination boosted airport revenue nearly $3 million above predictions.
The number of passengers flying in and out of Tampa International Airport has been slow to increase since the beginning of the great recession — up only 2.9 percent since 2010 and up 1.1 percent over last year — but those that are flying are spending more during each visit, said Damian Brooke, vice president of finance for the airport. Brooke presented the second-quarter report to the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority finance committee on Tuesday. He called it a “blow-out quarter,” and evidence of a rebounding economy.
Using survey information obtained from passengers through the airport’s Wi-Fi system, the airport has created new spaces and continues to redevelop a number of concessions to increase revenue, said aviation authority spokeswoman Janet Zink.
A space in the main terminal that was once a planter is now the Mise en Place First Flight Wine Bar, Zink said. The airport also has added a Columbia restaurant, Green Iguana Airside and Shula’s Bar & Grill as part of the concession redevelopment program.
It’s all about taking the information customers provided and giving them what they want, Brooke said. Passenger spending per visit is up from $10.14 in 2013 to $11.27 in 2014, an 11.1 percent increase over last year’s second quarter.
Finance officials also credit a portion of the windfall to more customers moving from the economy parking lot to the more expensive long-term and short-term parking garages. The short-term lot costs $4 more per day than the $16-per-day long-term lot. Economy parking at the airport is $9 per day.
“We had projected $13 million in parking revenue for this quarter and we collected $13.8 million,” or 5.9 percent more than expected, Brooke said. Tampa airport officials voted in August of last year to increase parking rates, a move expected to bring in $1 million more in revenue this year.
Bad winter weather in the Northeast added yet another layer to the picture. Weather delays forced more people to spend the night here and more than expected stayed at the Tampa Airport Marriott. Airport revenue from the hotel jumped up 21.9 percent over 2013 to $510,000, according to the quarterly report.
An unexpected increase in car rentals rounded out the good news, bringing in $1.1 million above projections. Brooke said the airport has the 10th largest airport car rental operation in the country. It will grow even more in 2017 under the airport’s master plan, which calls for construction of a consolidated car rental facility the size of a large shopping mall. That new facility will open up 1,200 more spaces in long-term parking that is now being used to store rental cars.