BLOUNTVILLE - Tri-Cities Regional Airport's new online booking engine at its Web site (www.triflight.com) is running and ready to do business, members of TCRA's marketing committee were advised Tuesday.
TCRA is touting the booking engine with a new "Want It. Book It. Be There" television ad campaign.
"Let's get people interested in traveling. ... The new spot is much more visually enticing, and it will be easier to monitor impact," Melissa Thomas, TCRA's director of marketing and air service development, said of the ad campaign for the booking engine.
The move puts TCRA in direct competition with popular travel Web sites such as Orbitz and Travelocity to book plane tickets.
Airport officials are hoping the booking engine will help spike ridership - which was down more than 10 percent during 2006.
To use the booking engine, Thomas noted travelers will need to register so they can book a flight and get a flight confirmation e-mail. The Web tool also shows competing air fares offered by various TCRA carriers.
The booking engine's developer, TraveLine, will be offering a seven-day cruise to help promote it. TV spots talking about the promotion are scheduled to run from Jan. 29 through Feb. 26. To be eligible to win, people must register for the contest at www.triflight.com.
"Airport employees are not eligible," Thomas said of the promotion. "We are still working out details for selecting and announcing the winner."
Thomas said promoting the online booking engine in its TV campaign was chosen over a different "Right Here ... Right Now ... Just Right" campaign emphasizing TCRA's convenience.
"It just didn't have the zing - the impact I was looking for," Thomas said of the convenience emphasis campaign. "It didn't make me want to go out and buy a ticket."
The ad campaign rollout emphasizing the booking engine is happening amid ongoing unsuccessful efforts to get airlines to offer new flights.
To turn that around, TCRA is exploring doing nontraditional services - like bag checking and passenger service functions offered by the airlines - to entice niche air carriers to begin offering flights.
"We're doing this to attract new airlines, not displace others," TCRA Executive Director Patrick Wilson said of the idea for the airport to take on airline-type services.
But Thomas noted it's a tough market to get new air service now.
"Nobody is doing much out there right now because fares have ratcheted up to where they are at a profitable level," she explained. "(The price of) fuel has kind of stabilized. There is a lot of change going on out there in the industry, but carriers ... don't want to do a lot to upset that apple cart. Everyone is kind of in a holding pattern."