This article has been updated.
As the San Antonio International Airport gears up for a major redevelopment, city officials want to make sure residents don’t lose patience with the inconveniences.
They are also concerned about persuading customers to fly out of San Antonio instead of nearby Austin-Bergstrom International Airport when the two airports are eventually offering similar services. Austin currently has more direct flights, including to destinations in Canada and Europe, which San Antonio eventually hopes to add through its redevelopment project.
On Thursday the San Antonio City Council voted 10-0 on whether to approve a three-year contract worth up to $10 million for on-call advertising and marketing services for the terminal development program and concessionaires and to lure new carriers to the airport.
“This is obviously a lot of money,” Councilman Manny Pelaez (D8) said at the council meeting.
“It’s commensurate with our need to start acting like the seventh largest city in the country. I think this is an important step in that direction, to make us more admired, more attractive and competitive.”
The contract includes two one-year renewal options. The first year of the deal is worth $2 million, funded from the Airport Operating and Maintenance Fund Budget.
The work also is expected to include keeping residents in the loop about changes and progress during the years-long airport redevelopment.
“As one of the largest capital programs in the city’s history, it is vital the
residents, stakeholders, passengers and visitors to the San Antonio International Airport receive consistent updates and progress stories over various media,” the agenda item read.
Indeed, city leaders have high hopes for the redeveloped airport.
Plans for the $2.5 billion renovation include adding a spacious new terminal that’s bigger than the two existing terminals combined, as well as improvements to runways, vehicle roadways and other airport facilities.
Construction of the new terminal — the largest piece of the project — is expected to take place between 2024 and 2028.
“It’s hard to overstate the impact that the airport redevelopment will have not just on air service in and around San Antonio, but also on the trajectory of our economy,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg told reporters at a recent press conference where city officials celebrated the airport’s selection for a $20 million Federal Aviation Administration grant that’s expected to pay for some of the renovations.
Nirenberg said the redeveloped airport will send a message “here in town, but also nationally and internationally about the kind of city that we are and the future that we have.”
To help bring the public along with that vision, in July of last year the city requested proposals for the on-call marketing contract.
City officials received five proposals, which were scored by an evaluation committee made up of representatives from the city manager’s office, San Antonio Airport System, the city’s communications and engagement department and the economic development foundation Greater:SATX.
The committee recommended that City Council approve a contract with the San Antonio-based firm KGBTexas Communications, which has previously done PR for the airport as a subcontractor for Fort Worth-based Pavlov Advertising. The firm also worked with the Houston Airport System when it opened its international terminal expansion for Southwest Airlines, and with Valley International Airport in Harlingen.
Pavlov Advertising also made a pitch for the new San Antonio contract, but ranked third in the evaluation process, behind KGBTexas and San Antonio-based The Atkins Group.
Among the public relations issues the firm will be tasked with addressing is reminding residents that the short-term inconveniences will be worth the long-term benefits of more direct flights and the possibility of international flights out of San Antonio. Additionally, San Antonio faces the marketing challenge of keeping customers from choosing the nearby Austin-Bergstrom Airport, according to documents from the city.
Some of the money is likely to go toward media buys.
According to the agenda item, the city plans to offer the public relations and marketing services to new airlines that enter the market, as well as to airport concessionaires.
The stated scope of the work includes “positioning the Airport System as a preferred brand” and “a key economic driver for our region, and an airport industry leader.”
It also includes helping recruit new airlines or expanding the services of existing airlines, a task that airport officials say is among their biggest challenges.
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