Tampa International Airport is rolling out the red (white and blue) carpet like never before. An estimated 50,000 guests are expected for the Republican National Convention and for many of them, the airport will be their first and last impression of the Tampa Bay region.
Airport officials and community leaders are making sure that impression is a good one, with welcome banners, patriotic flower arrangements, art exhibits and daily entertainment.
“We want visitors to come and see this airport and say, ‘Wow, this is the best airport that I’ve ever been to.’ And then we want them to come back,” said Ken Jones, President and CEO of the 2102 Tampa Bay Host Committee for the Republican National Convention. “We want them to have such a good experience that they want to come back to Tampa airport and visit our beaches, visit our museums and visit all the great smiling faces we have here in Tampa Bay.”
Some of what convention goers will see at Tampa International Airport will remain in place long after the convention is cover.
“We’re America’s favorite airport, thanks in part to our great staff,” said airport CEO Joe Lopano. “But we’ve also made some upgrades to our facility to solidify that position. We’ve put high definition video walls in our baggage claim areas, upgraded our bathrooms and renovated our ticketing and baggage claim curbside areas. And we’ve put in Visitor Information Centers staffed with a team of Volunteer Ambassadors who have already helped thousands of travelers.”
Welcome banners are in the main terminal and rental car areas. Daisies in flower pots wrapped in American flags dress up the terminal and seating areas. Creatively designed elephants, part of the Herd of Tampa Bay public art exhibit, showcase the talents of local artists at the airport. Star-spangled graphics dress up the doors and windows at baggage claim. A steel drum band, jazz band, magician and singing pirates are part of the daily entertainment schedule.
“When you arrive at a destination, your first impression is the airport,” said D.T. Minich, executive director of Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater. “With everything that Joe and his team have done to improve the facility itself, and with all these wonderful welcome signs and art exhibits, people are really going to get the idea that the Tampa Bay area is worth returning to.”