Terminal Opening Event Management
San luis obispo county regional airport
San Lus Obispo County Regional Airport Terminal Opening Event Management
San Luis Obispo, CA
In 2017, the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport (SBP) was set to open its new terminal, a stunning, modern building entirely separate from the old terminal. In order to both celebrate the important development and also educate travelers on how to use the new facility, the airport needed to properly introduce the community to its new airport. Through a series of events in October and November, including free public tours, a media tour, ribbon cutting and a private reception, the San Luis Obispo community and its visitors had a chance to see in person all of the effort, thoughtfulness, and love that the airport had poured into its new home.
The series of equally important events can be broken down into four sections: private reception, public tour, media tour, and opening day events. Each of these events were aimed at a separate audience, and each offered the community a unique way to experience the airport.
Katie Franco led airport staff through the event planning process. Weekly calls with the construction team ensured that timelines aligned and that expectations were clear. She worked with airport staff to both initiate the event planning and also to raise funds from key stakeholders in order to pay for the events. Simultaneously, Katie developed the necessary collateral to educate the public—graphic signs, press releases, fact sheets, and tour scripts. She also worked with the website developer, Kyle Elliott, to design a landing page and online registration for public tours.
Proper production of each of the events included the following aspects:
- Coordination with Ops and construction team to allow for events in a space that still technically belonged to the contractors
- Sponsorship acquisition and appropriate recognition
- Online invitations, RSVPs, and tour registration
- Media invitation, coordination and accommodation
- Catering, gifts and giveaways for private reception, public tours and ribbon cutting
- Event coordination, including a dynamic parking plan and accommodation for existing passengers during events
- Entertainment for private reception, including A/V and musicians
- Coordination of wine and beer tastings at private reception, including ABC license, winery layout and tasting provisions
- Speaking points, fact sheets, tour scripts, FAQs, press releases, media advisories
- Social media posts highlighting new terminal, public events, and to encourage tour registration
The team’s efforts resulted in the successful hosting of four events:
- Private reception: The private reception was a sophisticated way to thank community leaders, stakeholders, tenants and public officials for their support as the terminal was being built. The invitation-only affair allowed guests to tour the new facility, as well as enjoy dinner, dancing and wine tasting from twelve prestigious local wineries and 805 Brewery.
- Public tour: Free tours of the new terminal were made available to the general public over an entire weekend. The event was so popular that the size of each group time slot had to triple in order to accommodate everyone who wanted to attend. The tours self-guided, with airport staff positioned at key areas to provide insight into the facility.
- Media tour: This was a private tour led by the airport director in order to provide detailed information directly to the press. The airport provided media kits as well as high-resolution photos and ample opportunity for Q&A and individual interviews.
- Opening day: The new terminal opened in two phases: the first inbound flight on the night of November 2 and the first outbound flight on November 3. A ribbon cutting, more media, and local treats helped welcome passengers into the new space.
The goals for the opening were clear: to provide access for as many people as possible to learn about the new terminal. The airport planned to use the media, social media and in-person tours to provide a variety of options for the public to see the space. Event-specific goals were as follows:
- Reception goals: 200 attendees, 8 wineries – October 14
- Public tour goals: 100 registrants in 5 time slots – October 15
- Media tour: five media outlets – 1 tour, October 15
- Media coverage: 7 media outlets, including at least one industry article
- Ribbon cutting, November 1; first flight out, November 2: offer opportunities to both arriving and departing passengers to celebrate; 10 or more stakeholders to attend ribbon cutting
These events allowed the airport to reach across different audiences. With the reception, the airport focused on key stakeholders and public officials. The public tours were geared toward local residents, and the media furthered the local reach through TV, radio and newspaper reporting. Our ribbon cutting was a celebration specifically for our first inbound passengers and relevant Chamber and business members. Finally, the outbound welcome was for the first travelers to fly out of our new terminal.
Furthermore, the events the airport planned were co-hosted with airport tenants. Rental car agencies provided parking spaces and the on-site restaurant catered the private reception. Our contractors helped sponsor the public and private tours, and airport staff and construction team provided information to public tour attendees. These events were a team effort that paid off in spades.
The program was an overwhelming success. The airport reached its sponsorship goals, which allowed it to fully finance the events without additional airport spend. The private event had more than 260 attendees and the airport actually had to turn away wineries that wanted to participate (275 registered attendees; 12 wineries was final tally). 130 people attended the airport’s public tours in a four-hour period. And the airport received ample local, national, international and industry press coverage—all of it positive.
The total program also came in approximately $2,000 under budget. Thanks to the sponsorships, the airport was able to produce all of the collateral, material, event coordination and digital assets needed to support a multifaceted opening event process.
Media coverage was overwhelmingly positive—even before the airport won awards for architecture and partnership. Response from the tours, receptions, ribbon cuttings and inaugural flights was effusive: “This is the most beautiful terminal!” “I love the floors.” “I’m so proud of our little town.”
In 2018, the airport also won an Airports Council International – North America (ACI-NA) Marketing and Communications award for its opening events.