With Frontier Airlines adding nonstop service between Trenton-Mercer Airport and Orlando, Fla., beginning Nov. 16, business representatives in Mercer County are expecting the increase in recreational travel to drive tourists to the Princeton area.
"The airport already has a really strong business side, and now it's adding a tourism side," said Peter Crowley, director of the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce. "We already have 2 million visitors coming into the region on a yearly basis, but having Frontier Airlines in our marketplace is putting in another peg to encourage more tourism."
Aaron T. Watson, director of transportation and infrastructure for Mercer County, said the airport has had success in catering to corporate travelers and offering weekday service to Boston, but it had been looking for ways to tap into the recreational travel market.
"We're doing quite well commercially, but there are 11 million potential recreational customers within a 50-mile radius of our airport … and many of those people want to travel to Florida," Watson said. "Yes, that service is offered at the Port Authority airports, but folks are put off by having to travel to get to them and spend a lot of money on parking. Travelers have made it clear this is the service they want and this is where they want it."
A company spokeswoman said Frontier has been trying to expand its nonstop Orlando service throughout the United States for a while, and it identified South Jersey as a prime location for growth.
"We decided on Trenton-Mercer because an airport's convenience for customers is a huge factor when we're deciding to offer service, and they had the best in that densely populated area in South Jersey," the spokeswoman said.
While the new service is limited to Monday and Friday travel between the two airports, Watson noted "at the end of the day, (Frontier airplanes) travel to 80 destinations around the world."
"We always want the carrier to prosper, and we also want the region to thrive," Watson said. "The better they do, the better it is for us, but expanding our airport to the rest of their destination network is a business decision on their part … and we have to be careful about engaging in a marketing strategy for the region."
Still, Watson said he has been speaking to other airlines about potential nonstop weekday travel opportunities to increase recreational traffic at the airport, noting "we definitely have the capacity to expand and add more service."
"Princeton is a pretty unique market, and adding this Orlando services shows its continued growth," Crowley said. "It's really taking a step for a long journey."