Regional Airports and Tourism Development

Regional Airports and Tourism Development


Manos Vougioukas, EuroTrans Consulting, GR; Aggelos Kotios, University of Thessaly, GR; Aggelos Mantziris, Development Agency of Magnesia, GR; Britta Kremke, Projectkontor 2 MV GmbH, DE; Ilka Rohr, Parchim County, DE


Operation DEAR (Developing the Economies of Airport Regions), part-financed by the EU INTERREG IIIC programme, is presented. Case Study of Nea Anhialos-Central Greece Airport development and exploitation


Regional airports can be valuable assets in tourism development. In recent years regional airports have seen considerable growth in traffic, particularly in conjunction with low cost flights throughout Europe. Regional airports, especially when combined with a neighbouring industrial, business or technology park, can be valuable assets in overall regional economic development of which tourism development is an important part. However, these airports often do not operate at full capacity since the neighbouring tourism facilities and industrial parks lack the interest of investors, and vice versa. The DEAR (Developing the Economies of Airport Regions) project has been set up within the European Union inter-regional co-operation programme INTERREG IIIC to address this issue. DEAR is a cooperation between six regions with less-developed regional airports. The participating regional airports are: Baltic Airport Schwerin-Parchim in North-East Germany, Black Forest Airport, Lahr in South-West Germany, Kent International Airport in Manston, Thanet, South-East England, Nea Anhialos Airport in Central Greece, Radom in South-East Poland and Slupsk-Redzikowo in North-West Poland. The airports have nearby tourism attractions and industrial, business or technology parks, but their potential for economic development is not efficiently used. Although the infrastructure is available, the partner regions lack good concepts for further developing and marketing their tourism assets, industrial parks and regional airports and thus increasing the attractiveness of their regions.

The overall objective of DEAR is to improve the tourism potential, economic development and job opportunities in the participating regions through a powerful network of regional airports. The network wants to strengthen the competitive position of existing SMEs and boost the capture of new investors from outside these regions.

The expected results of DEAR include a network of airport regions comprising a marketable association of regional airports, tourism facilities and industrial parks. This new network, the ?European Transport Hub?, brings together representatives from public authorities of the regions involved, from tourism-related stakeholders and from airport and industrial park management. The DEAR partners develop a business plan and a marketing strategy for the new association, which promotes tourism and business development and thus improves employment opportunities. Further activities include, among others, the organisation of Regional Airport Forums with the aim to raise awareness and integrate local key players in airport, tourism development and business park related issues, the organisation of study visits and a feasibility study on a joint Airport Academy. The exchange of in-depth knowledge in DEAR helps to identify and eliminate investment barriers in the regions involved and allows for the development of new tools and strategies for improved airport, tourism and industrial park management.

The paper presents the procedures of the DEAR project and highlights its achievements in terms of the potential contribution of regional airports to tourism development and overall regional economic development.

As a case study, the Nea Anhialos airport in central Greece is further examined and in particular the Exploitation Plan developed within the DEAR project is presented. The Nea Anhialos-Central Greece Airport lies 25km south-west of Volos next to national motorway from Athens to Thessaloniki, between Almyros and Nea Anhialos, covering an area of 12 km2. Its favourable location at the heart of Greece provides a catchment area of in excess of 1 million population. There are several tourist destinations within 1-2 hours drive from the airport: City of Volos (20 minutes), Mount Pelion resorts, Meteora, Tempi valley, Mount Olympus, Lake Plastira, Northern Evia resorts. The cities of Larisa and Lamia are within 1-hour drive while the cities of Trikala and Karditsa are around 1.5 hours drive. The airport started operations in 1993. Passenger traffic although has increased from 15000 to 45000, has remained low accounting for under 0.5% of the national air passenger traffic. The existing passenger terminal (450 m2) is capable of accepting charter flights and bigger airplanes as well and the parking area for 9 planes is going to be ready soon. The Airport has 2 runways (3000 m long), it can accept any kind of plane, it can carry out night flights and the number of passengers that it can take up is 280 passengers per 90 minutes, with the possibility to reduce the time to 60 minutes (at 1 m2/passenger). The Airport operates all year round and has very good meteorological conditions. Charter flights from Britain, Netherlands, France, Belgium, Austria, Czech Republic and Cyprus operate between April and October in recent years. There are no scheduled flights so far, although the possibility exists for a regular air link to central Europe according to recent market research. The Airport is the only one on the mainland between Athens (?E. Venizelos? International Airport) and Thessaloniki (?Makedonia? International Airport), and it is expected to remain so for the foreseeable future, since it is the preferred airport for further development in the Thessalia Region statutory Master Plan. There excellent possibilities for connecting the Airport with tourism destinations by sea (eg by hydrofoil) within the Pagasitikos Gulf. A new passenger terminal of 9000 m2 is under construction and due for completion in 2007.

The Central Greece Airport Exploitation Plan comprises the following components:

- Market research with existing and prospective air passengers
- Institutional survey of opinions and views of key stakeholders (eg Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Association of Hoteliers, National Tourism Organisation, Civil Aviation Authority, Prefecture-second tier local government, Municipalities, Regional Authority, local Tourism organisations); in two waves, before and after the Plan?s proposals
- Establishment of ?Airport Forum? with the participation of key stakeholders, based on the successful experience of the partner airport Kent ? Manston, Thanet, UK
- Identification of potential flight links
- Demand forecasting
- Institutional and organisational framework
- Development of marketing tools
- Promotion at international tourism fairs
- Contacts with airlines.

The paper presents the Plan?s components, methodology and results and concludes with recommendations for the further development and marketing of the Central Greece airport, towards potential tourism development of the wider region. Lessons for other airports within the DEAR network as well as for other regional airports in Europe are drawn.


Association for European Transport