Bozeman airport prepares for record summer traffic
BOZEMAN, Mont. - Summer tourism is kicking into high gear here in Montana, and many in the Gallatin Valley are gearing up for their busiest season yet. Airport Director Brian Sprenger says they could see up to 500,000 people come in and out of the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport. When it comes to being busy, we found the airport is not alone. At Cruise America in Belgrade Julie Carpenter tells us the phone rings several times a day. She gets calls from people all over the world who are wondering if they can rent an RV this summer. "We are booked through August and into September," said Carpenter. Carpenter printed out all of the reservations for the year, 162 total. She tells us 80 percent or more of those are bookings for the summer months. "Because of that Cruise America got us more units in here too because the demand is here and they now actually opened another branch this summer here in Bozeman," said Carpenter. That means they now have 20 units in their fleet, and two locations. It is all in an effort to try and accommodate the record numbers. We headed to the airport, just a few minutes down the road, where Sprenger tells us they could have as many as 30 arrivals and 30 departures in the peak of their busy season. "About three to four years ago we were handling really about two thirds the passengers we do now," said Sprenger. Over the years the airport has expanded their terminal and increased staff as tourism has continued to grow. This summer they are seeing even more changes because of the demand. "We have a lot larger aircraft, so where as many of our flights would have been 60 to 70 seats the last couple of years, a lot of them this year are 150 seats or more," said Sprenger. We also talked to Bozeman Area Chamber of Commerce President Daryl Schliem. He says the increase in traffic at places like the airport has a direct impact on Gallatin County. In recent years Schliem tells us businesses in Gallatin County have seen around 50 percent of their income come from summer months. This year, that could be increased by 5 to 10 percent.