How Can Tourism Boards Attract Airlines?

Both airlines and airports have access to a lot of data. Whether that’s from their own knowledge base or industry tools, they already know on paper whether a route will work or not. But does that tell the whole story?

tourism boards airlines aviadev
What can tourism boards do to attract airlines? Photo: Pixabay

We discussed route development at the recent AviaDev Europe conference, and in particular how tourism boards can get involved in the process. Although traditionally conversations about new routes will happen between airlines and airports, more and more we’re now seeing tourism boards becoming involved in order to increase the attractiveness of the destination to airlines.

Moreover, a new airline route ticks so many boxes for a tourism board too, why wouldn’t they want to be involved in developing new routes?

tourism boards airlines aviadev
Airlines already know the numbers. Photo: Pixabay

The things tourism boards know that airlines want to know

Airlines know a great deal about routes and connectivity. In fact, by the time an airline comes to meet with an airport, they will almost certainly already be fairly confident that, on paper at least, the route could work. However, they are still likely to be touting for business around a number of airports, so what can tourism boards do to sway their opinion?

As Becca Rowland from MIDAS Aviation said at the event,

“Just because you have a great business case doesn’t mean that you’re going to win it. You’re up against everyone else who are also presenting great business cases. Your case has to be more convincing.”

Traffic potential is a big one. It’s easy enough to look at schedules and gaps to be filled, to pore over reams of hard data. But is this really necessary? Becca says not.

“The airlines that airports are talking to also have all of that data; they have bigger computers, bigger teams, they have more analysis and they are analysing every day. What they don’t have is your local knowledge. That’s the bit that makes your business case different.”

tourism boards airlines aviadev
Local traditions, events and festivals are important to airlines. Photo: Pixabay

Becca gave some examples of the forms of knowledge that tourism boards will often have at the tips of their fingers that airlines will not have and will find hard to get. Things like local festivals, upcoming conferences, new local hotels opening… all these things serve to strengthen the business case and help an airline make the right decision. She said,

“Don’t underestimate the value of your local knowledge.”

Building the business case

Without a doubt, airlines love numbers, but there’s no point in trying to replicate the numbers that they already have at their disposal. Tourism boards and airports should be working towards presenting those numbers that airlines don’t have access to. Managing Director at AviaDev Europe, Juraj Toth, gave some examples:

  • Catchment area: Any airline can draw a circle around an airport and call it a catchment area, but what they don’t know is how easily connected (or not) that airport is. Local knowledge about MRT links, express highways and other infrastructure can suddenly make that catchment area much more appealing.
  • Economic details: A big population doesn’t always mean a great propensity to travel. Knowing more about the buying power of the people in the catchment, things like income data, age and other demographics, can improve the outlook for potential passenger flow.
  • Industry: Tourism boards should present a list of the biggest companies in the local area, showing their need to travel and their connections to other destinations.
tourism boards airlines aviadev
Juraj Toth speaking at AviaDev. Photo: AviaDev

Of course, there’s one part that the tourism board can do far better than anyone else in the room, and that’s to sell the destination. As Juraj said at the event,

“People fly to destinations, not airports”

While I know a few people who would happily fly to Singapore just to spend the day at Changi, I guess we’re in the minority here, and most people do indeed fly to destinations. As the face of the destination, tourism boards have a unique opportunity to really sell the attractions and the benefits of their local area to the airline, which will undoubtedly help to convince that airline that selling tickets on their flights is going to be a breeze.

AviaDev Europe will be taking place again in November 2020. In the meantime, Simple Flying is working with AviaDev again towards AviaDev Africa 2020, the premier forum dedicated to growing connectivity to, from and within the African continent.