Ontario International Airport Shines in Southern California

An aircraft climbs out of Ontario Airport at dusk.
Photo Credit: Ontario International Airport

National Transportation Week (May 12th-18th) and National Travel & Tourism Week (May 19th-25th) present a perfect opportunity for Ontario International Airport (ONT) and Greater Ontario California (GOCAL) to showcase the Inland Empire as Southern California’s most dynamic up-and-coming destination.

Tourism is a powerhouse industry in the Inland Empire, generating billions of dollars and supporting over 180,000 jobs.

Greater Ontario sits at the heart of this success story, boasting ONT, California’s favorite airport, the Ontario Convention Center, Toyota Arena, and the region’s largest concentration of hotels and restaurants.

The future promises even brighter prospects with the high-speed rail system, Brightline West, and the planned expansion of the Ontario Convention Center.

“The secret’s out,” says Michael Krouse, CEO of GOCAL. “The Inland Empire and Greater Ontario are the ideal places to experience all that Southern California offers.”

“Our convenient location, stunning natural beauty, and ongoing investments in creating a vibrant destination are attracting millions of visitors annually, generating significant buzz nationwide and internationally.”

Interior of Ontario International Airport terminal.
Photo Credits: Ontario International Airport

Tourism’s Economic Powerhouse

Research by GOCAL and Visit California reveals that travel and tourism spending in San Bernardino County surpasses $5.5 billion, with restaurants alone accounting for $1.4 billion.

Hospitality wages within the Inland Empire exceed $5 billion annually, currently ranking among the top five employment sectors. Experts predict this sector to reach 200,000 jobs within the next 3-5 years.

Meanwhile, a recent Oxford Economics study highlights that annual visitor spending through ONT totals $2.7 billion, contributing significantly to the airport’s $3.8 billion economic impact.

“We are proud of the role Ontario International Airport plays in positioning the Inland Empire as a premier international destination,” says Atif Elkadi, CEO of ONT.

“While ONT connects our region to the world, it also connects the world to us with direct flights from over two dozen destinations, and that number is growing.”

Rising Passenger Numbers and a Bright Future

Last week, ONT announced projections for 2.2 million passengers this summer, a significant 15% increase (nearly 300,000 passengers) compared to last year.

Ontario boasts one of the most successful airport growth stories in recent years, experiencing a passenger volume increase of over 60% in the past seven years.

This year, ONT has added new flight routes to El Paso, Nashville, Houston, and Seattle. The airport is also witnessing a record number of international travelers. This trend is expected to continue with planned customs service expansion later this year.

The Southern California Association of Governments’ recently published its Connect SoCal 2024 Regional Transportation Plan. This projects a staggering sixfold increase in passenger volume at ONT by mid-century, reaching 36 million.

“While we’re excited about the future, we are committed to responsible growth,” emphasizes Elkadi. “Our region is in high demand for many reasons. It includes a unique quality of life unmatched anywhere else in Southern California.”

Ontario International Airport passenger drop off area.

A Destination with Everything to Offer

For GOCAL, ONT’s success further strengthens the region’s appeal as a premier travel destination.

“We have it all,” says Krouse. “From fantastic recreational opportunities and exceptional hotels and restaurants to a thriving international airport. World-class entertainment venues like Toyota Arena and the Ontario Convention Center. A rich cultural tapestry attracts residents, businesses, and visitors from all over.”

The outlook is even more promising. Los Angeles is set to host the 2026 World Cup and 2028 Olympics. The arrival of Brightline West’s Las Vegas-to-Rancho Cucamonga high-speed rail is planned within four years.

Notably, a projected 25% population increase is anticipated in the Inland Empire by 2050. Capitalizing on this, the local hospitality industry is poised for exceptional growth in the coming years.

“There’s no doubt that leisure and hospitality have become a significant economic driver for our region,” concludes Krouse.

Elkadi echoes this sentiment: “It’s difficult to find another region offering as much as ours. Ontario International Airport sees nothing but new opportunities on the horizon. We continue to serve the needs of this rapidly growing region.”

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By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 5 Min Read
5 Min Read
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