Why attending ROUTES is important for tourism authorities and economic development agencies?
ROUTES is the world's airline to airport route development gathering
Route development (sometimes referred to as air service or network development) is the process by which airlines make decisions about where to fly, how often and with what aircraft. With numerous options available, the process usually involves a careful weighing up of the relative merits of one destination versus another. In the past this was an in-house task for airlines but in the last ten years that has all changed. As the competitive and commercial pressures on airports have increased, airlines increasingly look to airports to make a business case for new air services, substantiating claims of passenger or cargo demand and demonstrating the competitive advantages they offer.
The process of route development often starts with an initial approach by an airport to an airline. The annual World Route Development Forum, or ROUTES, is the event where this process is facilitated and it has proved highly successful in allowing airlines and airports to start discussions.
Tourism, economic development and new air services
Good air transportation links are now widely recognised as a vital component in the supply of viable tourism infrastructure and support, as well as the facilitator for more general economic development of cities, regions and communities.
According to the International Civil Aviation Organization , every $100 of output in air transport generates another $325 for the economy; and every 100 jobs created in the air transport sector generate 610 jobs in other sectors. Similarly, statistics from the World Travel and Tourism Organisation shows that tourism now accounts for 200 million jobs worldwide and 10% of global GDP.
Despite these massive benefits, however, there has been limited input by either tourism authorities or economic development agencies into the development of new air services. Although they have sometimes voiced the need for greater air transport liberalisation, tourism authorities in particular have tended to focus on stimulating demand rather than influencing supply-side decisions. Consequently, tourism bodies have been major participants at the many travel trade fairs but not much beyond that.
However, just as recognition of the economic benefits of tourism and air transport have grown, so too have concerns about sustainability, and the impact on communities and fragile environments. More than ever, those tasked with economic development and tourism growth need to be actively involved in supply-side issues being, as they are, in a unique position to understand and balance supply and demand.
For this reason the time is right for those involved with tourism and economic development to take a more active role in discussions about air service development.
Finding a voice
Over the last decade airports have found a voice in the new route development decisions made by airlines, and this process is now including other stakeholders - what is more, such bodies are viewed as welcome participants in discussions about new air services. Tourism authorities and economic development agencies bring valuable market information to the airline's decision-making process and are often in a position to share the risk associated with new route development.
This process of partnership is being encouraged by the moves of some of the major international organisations engaged with tourism issues. In 2004 the World Tourism Organisation signed a Memorandum of Understanding with ROUTES with the key aim of establishing more direct air services, particularly to developing countries, as part of a wider effort to boost tourism around the globe. The WTO is a UN-accredited body, the remit of which is to help strengthen the economies of nations worldwide through improved tourism marketing.
Similarly, PATA, the Pacific Asia Travel Association , has formed a strategic partnership with ROUTES, organisations such as WTO and PATA can do much to encourage national tourism offices, as members of their organisations, to engage with the process of new route development and to see this as a critical step in balancing strategic objectives with supply-side constraints and the pattern of consumer demand.
ROUTES is the best place to start discussions with airlines
ROUTES is unique, set-up specifically to facilitate meetings between airlines and those interested in attracting new air services by those carriers. With some 2,200 delegates each year and delegations from over 350 airlines and more than 650 airports, expected at the Beijing event in 2009, Routes has proved highly successful in influencing and stimulating new route development worldwide.
But increasingly, airlines want to meet not only the representatives of an airport operator, but also representatives of the tourism authority and economic development agency. Joint delegations send a powerful message that proposed new air services will be supported locally, that there is a coherent strategy for growth in the region and that effective communication is already taking place between the various stakeholders who stand to gain from new air services.
In addition, tourism authorities and economic development agencies can support the work that their airport is undertaking at Routes by increasing the profile of their city or region through an exhibition or sponsorship. In particular, the airlines wish to be informed about new market and infrastructure developments that may encourage an increase of air services to a particular region.
Remember, at Routes, all the airlines are represented by route and network planners - their job is to understand your market and add new services where appropriate.