The Minster for Economy, Skills and Technology asked the PPIW to examine the ways to maximise the economic impact of the Welsh Governments investment in Cardiff and St Athan airports. Importantly this request was to explore how to maximise the economic impact outside of the airports and not simply focus on the airports themselves. The PPIW worked with Chris Cain from Northpoint aviation to produce a report which explored:
- How regional airports can maximise their economic impact and the implications for Cardiff & St Athan airports;
- Which economic sectors are best suited to the Cardiff & St Athan context; and
- The role that the Welsh Government and other stakeholders can play in encouraging these sectors and ensuring the greatest economic impact for the airport.
The report concluded that the creation of a thriving regional airport is vital to realising the economic potential of South Wales and the Cardiff city region. Cardiff airport can provide a symbolically important gateway to Wales and support three sectors identified as priorities by the Welsh Government – Advanced Materials & Manufacturing, Life Sciences and Financial and Professional Services. The airport can also benefit tourism, the tertiary education sector and public services.
If developed correctly, Cardiff and St Athan airports have the potential to retain 3,000 existing jobs and generate several thousand new jobs through the establishment of an aviation-driven business district that will equip Wales with the infrastructure to compete in an increasingly speed-conscious, globally networked economy.
However, this will not be a simple and quick process as the performance of Cardiff International Airport (CIA) in the period preceding Welsh Government acquisition was weak compared with peer cities in the UK, Europe and the US. Although there is evidence of improvement since the Welsh Government have taken ownership, turning the airport’s commercial prospects around will require further investment alongside a coherent medium term strategy to achieve expansion and secure wider economic benefits.
Such a strategy needs to consider: Air Passenger Duty, air route development, tourism opportunities, air cargo, other aeronautical activities, Air Traffic Control co-ordination, aerospace and Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul activity, renewable energy production, improved surface access and the capture of betterment value from investment in the airport through the creation of an airport business quarter or district.
Therefore, there is significant economic potential for both airports to have a dramatic economic impact for Wales but there needs to be long term vision accompanied by practical medium and short term strategies to put that vision into action.
To view the report, click here.