The evolving role of tourism authorities in route development

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In 2018, 57% of tourists arrived at their destination by air. So, why are tourism authorities not more involved in the process of attracting airlines, often leaving it to the airport authorities?

That was the talking point during a lively panel discussion on the role of tourism authorities in route development during this week’s AviaDev Africa (9-11 June) which is being hosted by Ravinala Airports.

Referencing her own experience Carol Hay, CEO McKenzie Gayle Ltd and former Director of Marketing UK and Europe for the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), said: “There is a huge gap in how [tourism authorities] engage with airports, whether large or small. But with airlines it is a totally different relationship. We would typically work much closer with airlines. The gap is the relationship with airports and that’s a key area to address.”

The main challenge, she said comes down to money. “Attracting an airline to a destination is one thing, but continually making sure every single flight is operating at or near capacity takes a great deal of work and investment.” She also stressed the need to invest in marketing and the need for greater synergy among all stakeholders. “When we look at route collaboration, stakeholder engagement is a key pillar to sustaining anything in tourism including airlift.”

Underlining that the global pandemic has taught stakeholders across the aviation sector to think outside the box, Hay added: “While we can’t rely on international tourism to fill our flights or our hotels, we’ve had to think what can we do within our region, within our communities and how can we leverage opportunities in the cargo sector for example… After all the risk of an airport closing  and the wide reaching impact that would have on the regional economy and community would be significant. COVID has shown that we need to stand together, we cannot do this alone!”

Meanwhile, the Hon. Najib Balala, Cabinet Secretary for Tourism and Wildlife, Republic of Kenya, added that now is the time to rethink and remodel destinations and how they’re marketed. “People don’t just want to come and stay in hotels anymore, they want to connect with local communities and have an authentic experience. And we’ve had to rethink our domestic market, which has all too often been ignored. It has been a wake-up call for us in Kenya.”

Hay agreed saying that one thing she would urge tourist boards to do when liaising with airports and airlines is to be authentic. “Every destination is unique and offers something different and that’s what needs to be sold.” She also advised tourist boards to partner not just with airports but also other destinations and their tourist boards when going into negotiations with airlines. “It’s expensive sustaining airlines and new routes but there is strength in numbers and two destinations working together might be able to negotiate a double drop.”

Visa facilitation is another area where tourism boards need to work alongside aviation stakeholders to ensure that while borders are protected it is not at the cost of bringing in tourism. “Think commercially. Tourism is a business with huge potential and we need to break down some of those barriers to travel,” Hay said.

Balala wrapped up the discussion reiterating the need for greater collaboration and involvement of all stakeholders. “Airports might not be the final destination, but they are the gateway, the entry and exit points to a destination,” he said. “We need to invest in them, make them attractive. A bad experience with an immigration or customs officer will leave a lasting impression and that passenger won’t want to return,” he noted.

“However, one thing we can’t avoid is that “tourism and aviation are intertwined. The two rely on each other, especially with 50% of travel in the world comprised of airlift. Tourism boards need to engage with airports, but also other stakeholders.”

Pictured: Top left – Carol Hay, CEO, McKenzie Gayle Ltd and former Marketing Director UK & Europe for the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO); Top right – Hon. Najib Balala, Cabinet Secretary for tourism and wildlife, Republic of Kenya; Bottom – Mafalda Borea, Sustainability Editor, VoyagesAfriq and panel moderator.

ANSL launches UK-first simulator-based ATC training programme

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Air Navigation Solutions (ANSL) has launched a ground-breaking Unit Training Programme that enables Air Traffic Control Officers (ATCOs) to utilise simulators as a key training tool throughout full unit training.

The launch marks the first On-the-Job Training (OJT) programme that uses simulators consistently throughout the entire Unit Training Plan (UTP) to be approved for use in the UK.

“The systematic use of simulators throughout the entire OJT not only provides highly effective training, but also improves predictability and reduces training times substantially,” noted Paul Diestelkamp, Head of Business Development and Solutions at ANSL.

Every ATCO needs to undergo unit training when arriving at a new airport.However the live operation at large hub airports does not present trainees with many opportunities to practise their basic skills during the initial phase of training due to consistently high traffic levels. Meanwhile, at less busy airports the lack of traffic can also hinder progress in the later stages of training.

By using the simulators under ANSL’s newly created Unit Validity Course (UVC) as part of the enhanced ITP, ATCOs can receive initial ‘light traffic’ training which can then easily be scaled as trainees acquire skills and experience in a controlled traffic environment. The UVC is a 14-week assessed classroom and simulator course which replaces the previous Level 1 training phase that was carried out in the live operation and it must be completed before ATCO trainees can move on to handling live traffic in the Visual Control Room (VCR).

The simulators also form a large part of the second and third phases of the new UTP. The advanced technology gives trainers the ability to generate any specific traffic scenario required at any given point in the training regardless of what he live environment is able to provide. In addition the simulation can also be paused to reflect and assess decisions during training, something that is obviously not possible with live traffic.

“Our state-of-the-art simulators ensure that trainees get to see and experience anything that cannot be delivered by the operation at that moment in time  – which could be anything from heavy traffic levels or weather phenomena to the complexities generated by long-term apron and manoeuvering area closures as seen during the pandemic,” said Nichola Ashcroft, Head of Training at ANSL.

ANSL’s first implementation of the UVC training course commenced in April at their Gatwick facility and it is now ready to support the implementation of similar UTPs elsewhere.



Colombian CAA partners with Rohde & Schwarz to enhance ATC communications at 36 airports

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The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) of Colombia (Aerocivil) has awarded Rohde & Schwarz a contract to deploy CERTIUM voice communication systems (VCS) at 36 airports. The agreement complements more than 1000 CERTIUM air traffic control (ATC) radios installed in more than 80 airports throughout the country.

All systems, which consist of compact IP based VCS equipment will all be delivered by the end of this year and will feature certified training, management and maintenance software.

CERTIUM VCS will be deployed in six main clusters, with each cluster covering several airports throughout a region. Centralised monitoring and managemetn is provided at each regional headquarter, via an Aerocivil wide area network. Uninterrupted power supplies (UPS) at each airport provide additional redundancy for each controller working position. In Colombia, air traffic safety, security and efficiency are kept in pace with current requirements.

“Rohde & Schwarz is proud to provide Aerocivil with the latest communications technology,” said Mauricio Samudio, General Manager, Rohde & Schwarz Colombia S.A.S. “We have a long lasting, successful relationship with our Colombian administration. This allows us to support Aerocivil’s digitalisation roadmap with solutions that allow them to continue safe operations and reliably meet future challenges. Covering the area from the Colombian Caribbean all the way to the Amazon rainforest, this contract is a milestone for ATC in the region.”

Modernisation works at Kansai Airport now underway

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VINCI Airports alongside its fellow Kansai International Airport concession owner partner ORIX, launched the modernisation works of the airport terminal 1 at the end of May, marking the largest works programme since the airport was opened in 1994.

In line with Japan’s tourism strategy and economic development of the Kansai region, the works continue and accelerate the modernisation of the Kansai airports, initiated from the start of the concession in 2016. The overall goal is to create more capacity and improve the passenger experience without building a new terminal – an approach based on optimising existing spaces that fits with VINCI Airports’ environmental objectives.

The modernisation works involve enlarging and completely renovating the airport’s international passenger journey: security controls, boarding, departures, retail spaces and arrivals. The new journey will showcase the architecture of the building designed by Renzo Piano, while new technologies will optimise flows and enhance the passenger experience. Domestic passengers will also benefit from a new, more functional and compact space with a broader range of services and a vast retail offering available right up to the boarding gate.

All renovated spaces will be designed to the most stringent environmental standards for reducing energy consumption and will enhance accessbility and comfort for all users.

Supported by the Japanese Government, the works will make the airport the ‘first pavilion’ of the Osaka-Kansai Japan Expo 2025 and will offer an visitors an immersion into Japan’s innovation culture, right from their arrival.

“Modernisation of Kansai International Airport will act as a source of growth and enhance the attractiveness of the region. As a long-term partner working with the Japanese authorities, VINCI Airports is proud to stand alongside them in this new phase of improvements that will make the airport even more effective, sustainable and innovative.”

Early signs of recovery now on Swedavia’s radar

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Swedish airport operator, Swedavia, has reported that 446,000 passengers flew via the ten airports in its portfolio during May, a decreased of 88% compared to May 2019. Domestic traffic fared better than international traffic but demand remains strongly affected by the pandemic. However, despite the uncertain situation, Swedavia can now see rays of hope and early signs of a recovery.

Of the total 446,000 passengers in May, 254,000 were international passengers, a decrease of 90% compared to May 2019. Meanwhile, domestic travel decreased 83% to 192,000 passengers compared to May 2019 when the number of domestic passengers was 1,156,000.

Jonas Abrahamsson, Swedavia’s President and CEO described May as another month that was strongly affected by the pandemic. However, he also highlighted that “there are now more rays of hope than in a long while. While there is a great deal of uncertainty, there are clear signs of a recovery later this summer and in the autumn.”

He added that “for summer, we that conditions both for travelling and for safer travel have improved. Airlines are resuming and expanding service, though on a smaller scale compared to before.  The spread of the coronavirus is slowing as the vaccine rollout continues, and we also see countries starting to open up and travel restrictions being lifted. We know that many people have a strong desire to travel and that there is strong pent-up demand for travel.

“However, the trend going forward depends entirely on progress in vaccination efforts and on nothing unforeseen happening with the pandemic. Furthermore the use of health certificates, which will facilitate free movement and travel, is critical,” he continued.

At Swedavia’s seven regional airports, the number of passengers in May decreased between 59% and 93% to 89,000 passengers. Kiruna Airport continues to be the hub that has done best, likewise in May, with a decrease of 59%. Visby Airport was the regional airport that did second best in May, with a decrease of 75%.

At Sweden’s largest airport, Stockholm Arlanda (pictured), air travel decreased 88% to 271,000 in May compared to the same month in 2019. At Goteborg Landvetter Airport, air travel decreased 89% to 64,000 passengers in May and at Stockholm Bromma Airport, air traffic decreased 91% to 21,000 in May, compared to 2019 figures for the same month.

In the 15 months since the start of the pandemic, Swedavia has lost a total of nearly 42 million passengers.

NAV CANADA takes necessary steps to support aviation industry recovery

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NAV CANADA has been closely monitoring air traffic forecasts and is taking the necessary steps to ensure it has appropriate staffing to support the aviation industry recovery. Off the back of this monitoring, the air navigation services provider has now cancelled surplus notices to 41 air traffic controllers in area control centres in Gander, Moncton, Montreal and Edmonton. These 41 controllers will now remain on the job to provide vital air navigation services.

“We are proactively taking this action to support our customers as they shift their focus to recovery,” said Ray Bohn, President and CEO of NAV CANADA. He added that, “NAV CANADA remains ready and able to ensure the continued safety of Canada’s airspace as demand for air navigation services grows.”

From the onset of the pandemic, NAV CANADA has been working to support safe operations. Its workforce planning processes include multiple sources of information, including air traffic forecasts, which are designed to ensure that operations have the required resources to safely manage traffic throughout the pandemic, industry recovery and beyond.

“NAV CANADA will play a pivotal role in the sector’s recovery and remains committed to protecting the safety of the travelling public now and in the future,” added Bohn.

Ben Gurion Airport in Israel welcomes ExecuJet FBO

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ExecuJet, which is part of the Luxavation Group – one of the largest business aircraft and helicopter operators worldwide, is opening an FBO facility at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Managed in partnership with Flyeast, an Israeli aviation and tourism company, the FBO will be part of the luxury Fattal Terminal at Ben Gurion Airport. Services offered will include VIP processing, supervisory aircraft handling, concierge services, flight arrangements and charter solutions.

“We’re now finalising key project elements such as passenger flow within the VIP passenger lounge within the Fattal terminal. We’re planning to deliver the highest service levels to our many valued clients,” said Mike Berry, ExecuJet’s President Aviation Services and Vice President Middle East.

He added that the “man behind the terminal, David Fattal is already globally respected as a hospitality expert. He owns Fattal Hotels, which operates over 200 hotels across 19 countries.”

Alongside the FBO project, ExecuJet is working with Flyeast to establish a charter business unit in Tel Aviv, which says Berry, “will be seen as an extension of our global charter network and generate flights for the group and the local business.” The FBO facility in Tel Aviv enables ExecuJet to capitalise on increased traffic in the region due to the treaty signed in 2020 by Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

“Despite the challenges facing the global aviation industry, at ExecuJet we continue to concentrate on innovation and the expansion of our outstanding services across the Middle East and, indeed, the world,” concluded Berry.

Birmingham Airport launches drive-through COVID-19 test service

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Birmingham Airport in the UK has opened a drive through COVID-19 screening service in conjunction with Cignpost ExpressTest.  The facility will be particularly useful for members of the public who are asymptomatic and do not quality for NHS emergency testing, but require a negative result either to visit family members or to travel abroad. Eight drive-through lanes will have the capacity to process more than 8,000 tests per week.

The drive through facility builds on an existing partnership between Cignpost ExpressTest and Birmingham Airport, with a walk-in site being open since January.

“We are pleased to have developed and expanded the fit to fly testing service here at Birmingham Airport,” said Al Titterington, Terminal Operations Director, Birmingham Airport. “Following the success of Cignpost, which opened in January within the terminal building, this new drive through services ensures our customers can book tests with even more ease and convenience.

“Here at Birmingham we are continually putting our customers first by ensuring that as the travel restrictions change we have the right facilities in place to assist our customers and guarantee they are fully prepared for their trip,” he added.

Priced at £80 per person for travelling passengers and £99 for the test-only service, ExpressTest is delivered using the latest gold standard PCR equipment that is fully CE-IVD certified and manufactured to the highest possible standards, with tests carried out by trained Screening Practitioners. Cignpost ExpressTest also provides gold-standard PCR tests at Gatwick and Heathrow as well as at Edinburgh Airport in Scotland.

Since the resumption of international leisure travel on 17 May, Birmingham Airport has seen a spike in passenger numbers with airlines restarting several flight services to Portugal, Madeira and Greece.

Noting the increased desire for testing since international travel resumed in England, Christian Corney, CEO of Cignpost ExpressTest said, “Our new drive through centre at Birmingham Airport builds upon a strong pre-existing partnership and will be a great addition to our nationwide services. We are proud to bring COVID-19 screening services to the local community, and whether for personal or business travel, we remain committed to delivering the best possible service at an affordable price.”

Interview: Jon Howell, CEO and Founder of AviaDev, and Nicolas Deviller, Deputy CEO of Ravinala Airports

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Although we’re all missing live ‘in-person’ events, AviaDev Africa, which is this year being hosted by Ravinala Airports Madagascar from 9-11 June, is set to deliver an exciting, engaging event that offers robust discussion, interaction and insights. Regional Gateway will be leading a roundtable discussion on how African airports can leverage non-aeronautical revenue opportunities. Ahead of the event, we spoke with AviaDev’s MD Jon Howell and Nicolas Deviller, Deputy CEO of Ravinala Airports, to find out more.

Cologne Bonn pushes ahead with private 5G network plans

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Germany’s Cologne Bonn Airport is taking a big step towards its digital future. Alongside IT service provider NTT, it is building a private 5G mobile phone network across an area of 1,000 hectares – the equivalent of 1,400 football pitches.

The aim of the joint research and cooperation project is to push ahead with technological innovations such as intelligent baggage screening and border control as well as to improve the airport’s overall operational efficiency.

“We see the decision to set up our own 5G network covering the entire premises of the airport as an important strategic step,” said Johan Vanneste, President and CEO of Flughafen Köln/ Bonn. “Having continuous connectivity and our own high-speed mobile network will open up a range of completely new possiblities for our processes and services, which will not only be of benefit to our airport operations but also to the businesses that are based here and to our passengers,” he continued.

The Internet of Things (IoT), automated vehicles on the runway and mobile security systems all mean that it is becoming necessary for airports to manage increasingly large quantities of objects and therefore data. 5G enables better connectivity and improved processing of the rapidly growing data flows, which allows the airport, the airlines and ground handling staff to work together more effectively.

“In the course of this joint research and cooperation project, we are not only planning the theory, we are also implementing and optimising one of the largest completely private 5G mobile networks in Europe. This allows us to research, develop and test innovative and future-oriented applications,” added Kai Grunwitz, Managing Director of the German branch of NTT.

He explained that the 5G network at Cologne Airport will enable the German hub to determine the exact location of devices and people, to transport luggage on self-driving vehicles, and to use autonomous robots to secure the site, as well as to provide intelligent services for the logistics hubs. The airport has been granted a licence for the project by the Federal Network Agency with frequencies of between 3.7 and 3.8 GHz. Setting up a completely private network guarantees stable processes with low levels of downtime and makes it possible to have an individually tailored operational and security strategy.