Deputy Aviation Director, Sky Harbor International Airport
As deputy aviation director of Sky Harbor International Airport, Deborah Ostreicher has a hands-on grasp of the travel industry. A typical day at the airport includes more than 1,200 aircrafts arriving and departing and more than 100,000 passengers coming and going. It’s no surprise that Sky Harbor is one of the 10 busiest airports in the world and has a $90 million daily economic impact.
Ostreicher’s professional background is in international business and marketing. She lived in Europe and the Middle East for about 10 years before coming to Phoenix. Although the travel industry always interested her, it wasn’t until 1996 that she became a travel professional. She joined Sky Harbor as the air service development manager, working to recruit airlines to Phoenix. The industry has certainly seen its share of changes since Ostreicher entered the scene.
“When I joined the industry, it was booming like crazy. With the economic downturn and post 9/11 era, things are certainly slower; and so is the cash flow that was once available for promotions and marketing,” Ostreicher says.
Yet Ostreicher sees her roles at Sky Harbor and as an executive committee member of the Arizona Tourism Alliance’s board of directors going hand in hand.
“As the area’s main airport and one of the largest in the entire Western region of the U.S., our role is to provide data and support to the efforts of the alliance,” she says. “Working together is critical, since a huge number of tourists come to Arizona by air and a large part of the airport’s business is the leisure market.”
Sky Harbor was not immune to the detrimental economic climate. Yet, the airport fared better than many others across the country.
“There has been an overall decrease (in passengers) of about 10 percent in 2009, but this is significantly better than many airports across the country. It’s important to keep in perspective that, rather than about 100,000 passengers a day, now we have about 90,000 per day,” Ostreicher says.
The demanding pace of keeping up with security changes, coupled with economic difficulties, is an ongoing challenge for the airport. Yet, it’s a challenge that Ostreicher is confident Sky Harbor can and will overcome. The recently announced Sky Train is one major project in the pipeline that is sure to bring growth and development to the airport.
“The Sky Train is by far the biggest project that will serve tourists, as well as the local community,” she says. “This will be ready for use by 2013, making it much easier for people to travel to, through and from the airport well into the future.”
Ostreicher recognizes the need to advocate the long-term benefits that a strong and vital tourism industry will have on the state. Though things may be difficult now, she says it’s still wise to invest in an industry that will be integral in Arizona’s economic recovery.
“The demand for tourism and air travel will undoubtedly bounce back,” she says. “But we can’t wait for that to happen to construct services necessary to serve this rebound. We have to do it now; and if you come to Sky Harbor, you’ll see that at America’s Friendliest Airport we are working to serve not only today’s customers, but tomorrow’s.”