COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -

The Colorado Springs Airport is spending nearly $200,000 on a plan to keep business travelers here instead of losing them to Denver International Airport.

The airport is starting a Premier Membership, a service similar to what many airlines and airports already offer to the business class, said Heather Lenard, marketing director for the Colorado Springs Airport.

Lenard said the first 100 people who sign up for the membership get a special annual rate of $199.  She said 72 people have registered so far.

For that amount, Lenard said, a business traveler will receive perks such as free valet parking and use of a special check-in lane to speed passage through security checkpoints.

Lance James, a local man who recently started a consulting business, bought a Premier Membership, saying it offers benefits similar to airline reward plans without needing frequent flyer mileage to qualify.

"It's a smart move by the airport," he said.  "I wish they'd had this when I flew more often in a previous job.  When you factor in the mileage and parking at DIA, it doesn't make a lot of sense to go there to catch a flight."

The airport is building an executive lounge for Premier members that should be finished by the end of September. 

"Most of our business traffic goes to DIA even though it's farther away," Lenard said. "DIA has more flights, more nonstop flights and generally cheaper fares because Southwest Airlines is there."

Lenard said Colorado Springs hopes to compete by offering the membership and services that will entice business flyers to stay here and use the local airport.  That represents a significant amount of money, she said, because business travelers pay the highest rate.

Being successful at retaining the business class could lead to improved services for leisure passengers as well, Lenard said.

For more information about the Premier Membership, contact the Colorado Springs Airport.