The West Tisbury selectmen on Wednesday gave an emphatic thumbs-down to a plan now under consideration by the Martha’s Vineyard Airport commission to allow an advertising company to sell space in the airport terminal and along the tarmac that would be visible to arriving passengers.
The selectmen voted without dissent to send a letter to the airport commission expressing their disapproval of the plan. The commission first discussed the proposal from Connecticut-based Luxury Media Partners at their Sept. 3 meeting, and again briefly at their regular meeting on Wednesday.
The proposal will be back before the commission on Oct. 15, possibly for a vote. Meanwhile, the commission is asking for public comment on the plan. Aquinnah selectmen have also voted unanimously to send a letter to the airport commission expressing dissatisfaction with the proposal.
Luxury Media Partners caters exclusively to luxury brand businesses in resort community airports. The company sells space to advertisers who appeal to more affluent clientele, many of whom travel by private jet.
The plan calls for advertising to be placed on small billboards facing the tarmac visible to arriving passengers, while small video displays would also be placed inside the terminal. Luxury Media Partners already sells space at the airport serving East Hampton, N.Y., and has had preliminary discussions with airport officials on Nantucket.
A 20-page proposal submitted to the airport commission states that the Martha’s Vineyard airport draws “the wealthiest segment of residents and visitors.”
Profits from the sale of ad space would be split 50-50 between the airport and the company; the company estimates the venture could generate between $100,000 and $200,000 in the first year and between $1 and $1.5 million over a five-year span for the airport.
The projections are based on five sponsor displays, two 52-inch digital video screens and displays visible to passengers and automobile traffic. Sponsor displays would be illuminated after sundown.
West Tisbury selectmen said the advertising would compromise the rural quality of the airport and the Island, and agreed no price was worth it.
“I don’t think we should be selling our heritage,” said board member Jeffrey (Skipper) Manter 3rd.
“I think the airport commission has lost touch with what this Island is . . . this is an Island that turned away McDonalds,” said Joan Ames.
“This is a horrible idea,” agreed selectman Richard Knabel.
Selectmen asked executive secretary Jennifer Rand to draft a letter to the airport commission, but also agreed to take it one step further.
“I’d like to personally appear before [the airport commission] the day they vote . . . it’s an important issue,” Mr. Manter said.
Reached by telephone yesterday, airport manager Sean Flynn said the airport commission asked him to explore alternative sources of revenue for the airport in response to decreasing federal and state support.
“Traditionally larger airports derive a significant amount of revenue from advertising. This airport has never done that, mostly from the perspective of keeping commercialization off the Island. But the commission asked me to go back and look at areas of potential revenue that haven’t traditionally been explored [on the Vineyard],” Mr. Flynn said.
He said the airport commission might consider the advertising on a trial basis, but said no decisions have been made, and comment is encouraged by the Oct. 15 meeting.
“We are nowhere near making a decision on this . . . right now it is only an idea and a concept,” Mr. Flynn said.