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Touching down in YGK

Looking beyond COVID-19, graduate students and city officials are teaming up to investigate ways to improve air travel to Kingston.

Plane landing gear (Pexels)
Smith School of Business masters students are collecting survey to assess air travel preferences. (Photo by Joël Super from Pexels)

Each year, thousands of people from over 100 countries visit Kingston for leisure, business, and education, but their ability to do so is limited by existing service offerings through major urban hubs, like Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa. Recently, senior students from the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University have partnered with local government and the Kingston Economic Development Corporation to make travelling to Kingston easier, faster, and more affordable.

“Our aim is to gather market intelligence during this COVID-19 time to improve air transportation supporting the community and local economy,” says Shelley Hirstwood, Business Development Officer at Kingston Economic Development. “Working toward this goal with Smith graduate students, particularly at this juncture when the global pandemic has placed extreme challenges upon all of us, will ensure local travel, tourism, and business can recover and optimize opportunities for future growth.”

Comprised of four Master of International Business (MIB) students, the team is operating as part of Smith Business Consulting (SBC), a student-run management consulting firm that partners with businesses, start-ups, non-profits, and government to provide high-impact, cost-effective advice.

“We are excited to support the Kingston community in growing its connections to the region, the country, and the world,” says Despoina Dasiou, who is collaborating with her peers Karanveer Cheema, Andrew Boughner, and Indiwarjeet Hundal on the project. “Uncovering more about travelers’ needs and price sensitivity will help us to generate recommendations that can improve access to the city.”

In line with the city’s completed runway expansion project and recent renovations of the airport terminal, the SBC team has created a survey to assess traveler behavior patterns, price sensitivities, and service preferences further. All Queen’s students, Kingston residents, and those traveling between Kingston and Ottawa or Toronto are invited to fill it out.

“From insights gathered though this exercise, we will gain a better understanding of what ingredients go into an exceptional travel experience,” says Cheema.

The potential benefits of improved air access for future travelers – particularly students set to attend one of Kingston’s post-secondary institutions, like Queen’s – are numerous, but SBC Director Charlie Mignault goes further – citing the effort to understand access to Kingston as an invaluable education opportunity for the student consultants he mentors right now.

“Projects like this are fantastic opportunities for our students to gain hands-on, industry-facing experience before graduating,” he says. “Furthermore, they find the work enriching because they are able to see the impact they can make on their clients’ missions. The project with Kingston Economic Development, for instance, could provide invaluable insight into air travel that can help Kingston grow and prosper.”

Learn more about Smith Business Consulting and fill out the survey.