PRESS RELEASE: The Basque Country’s Bilbao wins Routes Europe 2018

The Basque Government and Basquetour have won a highly competitive bid to host the Routes Europe air service development forum in Bilbao in 2018.

Routes Europe has been bringing together airports, airlines and tourism authorities to discuss future European air services since 2006. The unique event highlights Europe’s different destinations and aviation markets by moving to a new city every year.

An autonomous region of northern Spain, the Basque Country’s distinct language, culture, food, history and landscape have cultivated a thriving tourist industry. Over 2.5 million people visited the region in 2014, which represents a huge leap of 34.6% compared to the previous ten years.

The Basque Country’s attractions include the Basque Mountains, the Rioja Alavesa wine region, the resort town of San Sebastián and the 250km of beaches, estuaries, cliffs and fishing villages that run along the Basque Coast. The unofficial capital is Vitoria-Gastiez, but the city it is most famous for is, of course, the revitalised Bilbao.

Once a prosperous port at the centre of the Basque Country’s industrial revolution, Bilbao fell into decline in the latter half of the 20th Century. However, the opening of the Guggenheim Museum in 1997 acted as a catalyst for the city’s cultural and economic regeneration, and Bilbao’s famous landmark now attracts one million visitors a year.

Hosting Routes Europe will support Bilbao and the wider Basque Country’s economy by bringing the aviation industry to this vibrant part of the world. Around 1,200 of the most senior decision makers from over 100 airlines, 300 airports and 40 tourism authorities are expected to attend the event in 2018.

Routes Europe will present the opportunity to showcase Bilbao Airport which handled four million passengers in 2014 (a 5.6% increase compared to 2013). The region’s smaller airports, San Sebastian and Victoria-Gastiez (which deals mainly with cargo), will also be brought to the attention of Europe’s aviation industry.

Neil Mulligan, senior future host manager at Routes, said: “Bilbao and the Basque Country are comparatively new tourist destinations which offer rich cultural experiences. Our delegates are always looking for new markets to explore so they will be excited by this announcement – Bilbao is a fantastic city to host Routes Europe.”

Vice Minister of Trade and Tourism at the Basque Government, Itziar Epalza, said: “Basquetour and the Basque Government have been working together on a positioning strategy as a tourist destination for a long time. Connectivity is vital to bring more tourists which is why we decided to bid to host Routes Europe.

“There is no doubt that the event will position the Basque Country internationally and bring economic benefits.”

More information about Routes Europe can be found at

Routes Europe 2018, April 2018, Bilbao, Basque Country, Spain.


Notes to Editors


About Routes


  • Routes events are unique forums dedicated to the development of new air services. Five ‘regional’ route development forums are held between February and July in the Americas, Asia, Europe and Africa. The flagship World Routes event takes place in September.
  • The events revolve around pre-scheduled meetings and an exhibition and conference which are delivered in partnership with host stakeholders. Hosts tend to be a collaboration between airports, tourism authorities and investment partners (the bidding process takes place two to three years before the event takes place).
  • Routes is part of the EMEA division of UBM plc.


For further information contact:


Karen Reeves

Communications & Content Marketing Manager

Routes, UBM EMEA

T: +44 (0)161 234 2721


Share this article

Request a demo

Routes 360 is a powerful digital platform for the aviation community to identify new route opportunities, build brand presence, communicate network strategies and access the most up-to-date industry information.

Request demo