A TASK force has been formed to make sure major construction works at Edinburgh Airport do not threaten one of the biggest years for Scottish tourism in decades.
Construction of a £25 million terminal extension at Ingliston will start next month.
The project will deliver a revamped security area, new shops and 15 per cent more terminal space, but will also transform the airport into a building site throughout a bumper tourism year for both Edinburgh and Scotland.
A flood of extra passengers are expected to use the country’s busiest airport with the Ryder Cup, Commonwealth Games and activities linked to the Year of Homecoming Scotland all happening in 2014.
Completion of the new security zone and the outer shell of the extension is not expected until the end of next year, meaning hoardings will become a familiar site for travellers.
The task force’s main goal will be guaranteeing the airport runs smoothly for the Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup, which are running across successive months from July to September.
Chiefs are banking on the experience of recently-appointed head of retail Richard Townsend, who oversaw London Gatwick’s arrangements for last year’s London Olympics.
Discussions have already been held with tourism body VisitScotland about decorating the hoardings throughout the airport with event advertising in efforts to limit the visual impact of construction works.
Mr Townsend said: “We’ve already started planning for next summer and are working closely with our business partners in the airport as well as in the city to deliver customer service fitting to such events where the world’s eyes will be focused on Scotland.
“Of course Edinburgh Airport is about to undergo a huge expansion project, which will present challenges in itself. However, we are dressing the airport accordingly and ultimately we know our passengers will appreciate that we’re improving their facilities and ensuring Scotland’s busiest airport is fit for the growth we’re anticipating.”
Passenger estimates are already high without including the draw of next year’s bumper events. The airport recently broke through the million mark for passengers in a month for the first time in both July and August.
Green economy spokesman Councillor Gavin Corbett warned authorities had to take pressure off the airport. He said: “No time is a good time for disruptive refurbishment work, but 2014 looks especially challenging. It demonstrates why the tourism sector in the Capital would be daft to put all its eggs in the airport basket.
“Just as much attention needs paid to travellers, within the UK, arriving by train or bus. If we can improve those services, it will ease the overall stress placed on the airport and perhaps even reduce the need to expand the airport at all.”