Canada 3000's airport signs will be coming down soon. The airline is no longer flying to the Gulfport Biloxi International Airport .
According to the airport assistant executive director Ken Spirito, Canada 3000 is "now focusing on competing head-to-head with Air Canada domestically, inside Canada. And as a result of that decision, their efforts internationally, specifically in the Mississippi Gulf Coast has taken a back seat for now."
Canada 3000's seasonal service started in 1999. At the time, the company considered the Mississippi Gulf coast a risk that was worth taking. Between the spring of 1999, the spring of 2000 and the fall of 2000, an estimated 12,000 people flew back and forth between Gulfport and Toronto.
"It's given us more fuel for the fire to prove our market here and enjoy more tourism from the Canadians in the future," Spirito said.
Statistics back that up. According to the Gulf Coast Hotel and Lodging Association, Canada ranks 11th in the number of golf packages purchased since September. And that doesn't include packages purchased by Canada 3000 passengers.
"It hurts to lose those big groups like that because it just leaves less golfers for us all to share," Oaks golf pro Joel Gann said.
Gann spent time in Toronto last year, selling coast golf packages to Canadians. Part of his sales pitch was the easy access to South Mississippi via Canada 3000. Losing the jet service means coast golf may suffer.
"While it doesn't make it impossible for them to come to the gulf coast," Gann said, "it's just going to make it more difficult for them."
Because Canadians tend to stay on the coast longer than typical visitors, tourism leaders say they'll spend the next few months looking for new airline possibilities, so more Canadian golfers can play at coast golf courses.
"There's still a demand here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast for Canadian tourism," Spirito said. "And we're making every effort we can to attract another airline to meet that demand."
Officials at the Gulfport Biloxi International Airport have already contacted a company called Air Transat to see if that Canadian airline would be interested in taking over the Gulfport to Toronto flights.
by Brad Kessie
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