The Routes concept is simple but unique: pre-arranged one-to-one meetings between airlines, airports, tourism authorities and economic development agencies, combined with other formal and informal networking opportunities, provide the ideal platform through which to develop new air services.
Routes recognises the vital interdependence between each of these stakeholders and strives to serve the entire route development community by bringing them together and facilitating discussions between the key decision-makers.
At Routes, we believe that the key to successful route development lies in changing people's perceptions and capturing the interest and imagination of influential players in the industry, be they airlines or airports. In a truly global era, growing air networks is one of the most effective ways to rapidly develop an airport, a region and a country.
Routes has grown from the first event in Cannes in 1995, which was held without a host, to having six events all over the world in 2011, all of which benefit from the input of a host. This truly reflects both the increasing importance of the airline / airport relationship within route development and the role of the event host in creating a unique experience.
Global economic recovery is far from certain and airports and regions face a crucial fight, not just to win new routes but also in establishing how to ensure existing traffic is protected and nurtured. Routes can play a vital role in facilitating this process.
Hosting a Routes event provides a unique opportunity for a destination to showcase its airport, its city and its country to the air service decision-makers of the world. It demonstrates the depth of commitment to positive airline relations and can become a landmark and a catalyst in a destination's entire route development strategy. It also demonstrates to an airport or destination's staff, stakeholders and region the vital importance that air service development plays in promoting tourism and influencing economic development.
Joel Tkach, manager of passenger marketing at Vancouver Airport Authority, World Routes Host 2010, recognised the significant value for money offered by hosting the event. "Vancouver Airport Authority's investment in hosting World Routes is similar to what I used to spend on annual California television advertising when I worked for the Provincial Tourism Authority," he says. "In my opinion, the impact hosting World Routes has on driving air service development (leading to higher tourism levels and other economic benefits) outweighs the benefit of a traditional ad campaign."
Routes also offers an ideal opportunity for hosts to showcase their newest developments. This year's World Routes host, Berlin Airports, is keen to give the route development community a preview of its new airport development. "The BBI will be one of the most advanced airports in Europe and with double the capacity," says Dr Rainer Schwarz, CEO of Berlin Airports. "This will make Berlin an ideal gateway for new intercontinental routes to Europe. With World Routes in Berlin, the international trade public will have the opportunity to form their own impression of the new Airport Berlin Brandenburg International before it opens."
Tourism and tour operators
In recent years, Routes has seen a significant rise in the involvement of tourism stakeholders. Tourism authorities and tour operators are not only attending the events, but also presenting 'Destination Briefings' and hosting high profile networking stands.
Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC), which will host World Routes in 2012, is keen to build on this trend, recognising that aviation and tourism are the key drivers to economic growth.
Khalifa Al Mazrouei, chairman of ADAC, made this clear, saying: "Route development is the lifeblood of any airport, airline and related industries, and with Abu Dhabi International one of the fastest growing aviation hubs in the world today, we are happy to have been selected to host the world's leading air transport forum and event, World Routes.
The winning bid is a collective achievement for Abu Dhabi as a whole, not just for the aviation sector, and provides an opportunity to showcase the UAE's capital city and the wider emirate to the world."
One of the key measures of the success of any event is the routes which emerge from it. Often, airlines choose to announce these new routes at Routes events. The following announcements were made at World Routes 2010 in Vancouver, Canada:
- US Airways' routes to Madrid and Dublin from its Charlotte hub
- Vietnam Airline's Adelaide to Ho Chi Minh City route
- Air Asia X's new route from Kuala Lumpur to Tokyo Haneda
- Air France's thrice-weekly service to Orlando and five-times weekly service to Lima
- Air Canada's decision to increase international capacity at Vancouver International Airport by 15% with daily services to Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong
- British Airways' five-times weekly service to Tokyo Haneda, as well as direct services to Buenos Aires and services to Cancun and San Diego
- Allegiant's new service between Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport in Ohio and St Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport (PIE) in Florida
- Hainan Airline's route from Beijing to Cairo
- Transaero's new routes to Rio de Janeiro and Port Louis, Mauritius
- JetBlue's new route between San Juan and Tampa Bay
- Winair's route between the island of Tortola and Dominica.
It is the impact that new routes can have on an economy that attracted the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) to bid for World Routes 2013. Cathy Tull, vice-president of marketing at LVCVA, confirmed this, saying: "The non-gaming economic impact of one British Airways flight from London to Las Vegas is currently $91m annually ... This flight was a result of attending previous Routes forums. We are hopeful that welcoming these key decision-makers to the city will ultimately encourage new international airline routes to Las Vegas."
Hosting a Routes event is a big commitment and an excellent opportunity. Routes is keen to guide all interested parties through the bidding process.