An international marketing strategy commissioned by the city and unveiled last week suggests the city should consider rebranding Abbotsford International Airport and sprucing up the terminal.
But although he welcomed the report and its ideas, Mayor Henry Braun says the airport must stick with what has made it successful.
The report, crafted by U.S. consulting firm Development Counsellors International (DCI), says calling the airport Abbotsford-Metro Vancouver International Airport would “add context for people considering flying through Abbotsford.”
DCI says such rebrandings have become common for smaller American airports in recent years.
Braun said that while the airport does serve a regional base, he is not sure having Vancouver in its name would be appropriate because much of its clientele is South of the Fraser.
The report also says Abbotsford International Airport could look more attractive to outsiders, including businesspeople who might want to invest in the community.
DCI says that while YXX’s ultra-lean business model has been working from on operational point of view, “it is less accommodating from an image perspective.”
The DCI report says that “airport authorities that don’t consider how businesspeople and other occasional visitors see its facilities can easily lose sight of the fact that the airport is a giant billboard for a community, and those that don’t look sharp can mistakenly convey a ‘small town’ vibe that works against economic development efforts.”
Braun called the report “food for thought,” but cautioned against increasing budgets.
“We’re very good at what we are doing,” he said. “We are a low-cost airport and we have to act and behave like a low-cost airport.”
The report suggests the airport can strike a balance by making upgrades at the airport, with the focus on those who travel for business. Those upgrades could include: marketing displays showcasing Abbotsford Regional Hospital and Cancer Centre and the University of the Fraser Valley; an exhibit showcasing the region; other exhibits showcasing local companies; and even rocking chairs.
“These area relatively small steps, but add the element of story-telling and context to the region’s economy that often speaks to people much more deeply,” the report said.
Elsewhere, DCI recommended regular visits by Wendy Dupley, the economic development executive director, and Braun to real estate, tax and legal consultants in Vancouver.
“Based on the interviews during our Discovery process,” DCI wrote, “these professionals may not have the best opinion (or any opinion) of Abbotsford’s business climate, which is a huge detriment to the City’s attraction efforts.”
The report also suggested a regional public relations campaign, and recommended branding local agricultural products as “Made in Abby: Abbotsford, British Columbia.”
The report said: “Such a small effort – combined with its catchy, edgy ‘Abby’ reference – has the potential to create awareness throughout the agricultural world of the diversity and quality of the Fraser Valley’s top city.”