A new study says cities that offer rail-to-airport connections attract more conventions and business meetings than cities without them. That's some after-the-fact good news for Salt Lake City, where the new airport TRAX line opened in April.
The American Public Transportation Association and the U.S. Travel Association jointly produced the new study, and say its results show that a rail line to the airport is "a secret weapon to attract business travelers and lucrative meetings and conventions."
Hotel performance in cities with the airport rail connections was, it said, "on average 10.9 percent better in terms of both average daily rate charged for hotel rooms and revenue earned per available room."
Hotels within a quarter-mile of a rail station did even better "with an average 12.5 percent higher occupancy rate and nearly 50 percent higher average daily room rates," the study said.
Researchers compared six cities with airport rail connections to six that did not have them from 2006 through 2013. The six "rail cities" studied were Atlanta; Chicago; Washington, D.C.; Minneapolis; Portland, Ore.; and San Francisco. Cities studied without such rail connections were Las Vegas; New Orleans; Orlando, Fla.; Sacramento, Calif.; and Tampa, Fla.
"The availability of rail access to airport terminals can actually strengthen the attractiveness of destinations overall as well as the performance of hotel properties near rail stations," said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. "The benefits of rail continue down the line, with increased hotel, restaurant, business and tourism revenue that help support our entire economy."
Eric Thompson, vice president of marketing for Visit Salt Lake, said it has already seen benefits from the new airport TRAX which it features prominently on its web page along with other recent enhancements including completion of the new City Creek Center mall downtown.
"We are coming off a really good year, and we book business well into the future," Thompson said. TRAX "helps entice conventions and improve the attendee experience."
Rail creates "a better perception" of easy access "for an airport that's only seven miles away" from downtown.
Remi Barron, spokesman for the Utah Transit Authority, said Airport TRAX is a hit with travelers.
"People from across the country have commented on online travel sites about how convenient it is to use, even for a short layover. Some have taken it to restaurants on North Temple and then back to the airport to catch their flights," Barron said.
"Other travelers comment that they take it downtown for business trips and just love that they don't have to rent a car."
Barron said UTA data show that daily average weekday boardings on UTA's Green Line TRAX has increased by more than 5,000 since the airport extension was added to it in April.