Case Study

San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport (SBP)

Travel + Tourism

Insights to guide communications strategy and capture a greater share of residents.


San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport (SBP) had a general sense that county residents were sometimes forgoing their local airport to fly out of other locations, but needed to build an understanding of how prevalent that behavior was, who was choosing other airports, and the reasons behind their choices.

The goal was to leverage that understanding to inform future communications and advertising with the local population. There may also be implications in terms of routes the airport should aim to add in the future to avoid loss of share.

Aside from these challenges, SLO County has a smaller population that makes traditional online panel research not feasible.


Heart+Mind Strategies conducted an intercept study with interviewers stationed at major local pedestrian areas through SLO County to reach residents and gather their perceptions and behaviors related to SBP.

The research was able to provide precision on the percentage of air trips originating from other airports, and the reasons why residents were opting for competing airports. Importantly, the research disproved a hypothesis that those choosing other airports had lower awareness of SBP’s flight offerings.

Early drafts of messaging were also tested to assess ways to resonate with residents and drive preference for SBP.


The research provided first-of-its-kind insights for SBP, enabling them to understand the profile of residents who were using other airports, the primary issues driving their decisions (perceptions related to value and connectivity), and destinations that were driving usage of other airports.

Since the research, SBP worked with airlines and added a new destination to its offerings. They have also focused their communications around the insights of the study to maximize usage among residents. These actions appear to be working as SBP smashed its previous record number of air travelers with a 19% increase.