Gordon Dewar: Scotland must grab this opportunity to deliver

Gordon Dewar is chief executive of Edinburgh Airport. Picture: Jane Barlow
Gordon Dewar is chief executive of Edinburgh Airport. Picture: Jane Barlow
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As an airport, we are measured against our direct airport or transportcompetitors. But I think that yardstick is now being moved.

At the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce Business Awards earlier this month, we were awarded the Best Performing Business for the second year in a row – a huge accolade for us and great to be judged highly amongst wider business comparators. But it was another award we won that I was particularly proud of – International Trade Business.

It indicates a change in perception and a growing awareness that our business of connecting Scotland with the world is an export business that generates positive balance of trade. It recognises the wider contribution we make to Scotland through the tourism and international student sectors – crucial parts of our national export balance sheet and two of our biggest ongoing growth opportunities for Scotland.

We’ve grown our international market extensively over the past five years, increasing long haul routes to 12 this summer and greatly increasing our European network. Expanding our Middle East offering, and maintaining and growing our well established European hub connectivity, has been matched by huge growth in tourists from Asia. It’s no coincidence that going from one to six North American routes has brought strong visitor growth from these markets.

All in all, we’ve added 4.5 million passengers, a growth of 50 per cent, but there’s even more to this than passenger numbers. This growth has acted as an enabler for tourism as the biggest employer in Scotland thanks to a world-class product and our renowned hospitality.

And we have a strongly growing network that can attract this international business from a potential 7bn population market, as long as it is easy and affordable to get here.

In 2016 our independent economic impact study showed the 11.2m passengers we had then equated to £1bn GVA and 23,000 jobs across Scotland – that’s 2000 jobs and £90m GVA for every million passengers.

Since that study, we’ve added 2.2m passengers, handling 13.4m in 2017. And that suggests we’ve generated an additional 4000 jobs and another £180m GVA across Scotland.

And there’s no reason we cannot continue with similar growth and deliver wider economic benefits, but we need the right policy and infrastructure to do that.

Imagine what we could do if the Scottish Government delivered its promise of reducing APD tax from its current position of being the highest in the world.

Let’s ensure our surrounding airspace routes, road network and tourism infrastructure can accommodate that growth and preserve the quality of the offer.

We must grab this opportunity to deliver more of this proven growth market and bring sustainable and equitable growth from Dumfries to Durness and from Mallaig to Montrose.

We must work together to ensure this largest of export growth opportunities is not missed through inaction or complacency.

Let’s make sure Team Scotland takes confidence and justification from our recent successes and delivers with even more enthusiastic partnership going forward.

Gordon Dewar is chief executive of Edinburgh Airport