Jackson Hole is looking south to attract new visitors. Her sights are both in South Florida and further south, like in South America. The focus follows an announcement by American Airlines this summer that the airline will begin direct flights between its Miami hub and the Wyoming city.
Tourism officials who visit South Florida say the new flights are necessary because, unlike ski destinations like Aspen, Vail and Whistler, the gateway to two national parks lacks a local driving market. Salt Lake City, for example, is a five-hour drive away.
Kent Elliott, Director of Global Destination Sales for the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce, says the new flights will help grow international visitors with affluent South Americans who have second homes in Miami.
The new flights start on December 15th and will run until April 3rd. Flights are daily except from January 11 to February 15, when they will be operated weekly.
Departures at 8:04 am from MIA arrive at 11:31am, meaning you can be on the slopes until early afternoon. Return flights are scheduled for 11:48am, landing in Florida at 6:44pm, providing direct connections to and from South America.
The new flights are operated with an Airbus A319 with eight seats in first class and 120 seats in coach. Flight time is clocked at 5 hours 27 minutes westbound, with return at 4 hours 56 minutes.
According to Jackson Hole officials, they are not taking over the new flight. However, they will support the service with local marketing in South Florida. Their visit included a media lunch and sales calls to travel agencies and tour operators.
The extra airlift comes at a time when visitor numbers at the gateway to Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks are softening.
Eric Seymour, Director of Brand Communications for Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, one of three ski mountains in the area, says that after a flurry of visitors in 2020 and 2021 as travelers looked for destinations where they could enjoy the outdoors and social distance, competition is once again global.
“Some of the people who came during the pandemic have returned to Europe this year,” he says.
There are currently three Forbes-rated hotels in the area: the Four Seasons Resort and Residence has five stars, while the Amangani and Hotel Jackson are rated four stars. Noble House, which operates two hotels, also offers Teton Private Residences with rental homes spanning up to 5,100 square feet.
Elliott says that while Jackson Hole is known as a ski destination, with more than 60 galleries, there is a strong arts and culture community and a burgeoning culinary scene fueled by local breweries and distilleries.
During Covid, he says visitors arriving in private jets and RVs recognized the area for its natural beauty, abundant wildlife, Old West and ranch lifestyle, broadening its appeal again.
According to airport data, Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Sun Country Airlines and United Airlines, as well as their regional affiliates, have flown to JAC in 2022. The load factor through August was 75.73% with 277,573 planes up 66.8% from 508,838 full-year schedules last year. In 2019 the load factor for airlines serving the Jackson Hotel was 81.75%, with 454,629 boardings for the 12 months.
Last month the airport board approved extending a voluntary curfew on private jets between 9:30 p.m. and 7 a.m. Previously the curfew was from 11.30pm to 6am for arrivals and from 6am to 10pm for departures. Teton County where he is based has an adjusted gross income of $312,442, the highest in the nation.