At the BIT – Borsa Internazionale del Turismo - international tourism fair, Verona’s Catullo Airport announced the strategic key-points of the growth plan that will make it the preferential airport interlocutor in the Veneto region for the next four years.
These key development factors are: traffic diversification strategy, new commercial alliances with extensive opening to the low-cost component, promotion of routes together with the region’s many and various tourist attractions, and economic and financial efficiencies that will make the airport highly competitive.
Milan, 19th February 2010 – At the Veneto Region’s stand at the BIT trade fair, in the presence of the major interlocutors of the Region’s tourism promotion campaign and the representatives of some Airlines, it was announced that new connections with the Veronese airport will be starting up in the spring season (late March-early April 2010); these development drivers will play a prominent role in achieving the growth targets set for the medium-term period up to 2014.
Despite the heavily recessive trend currently afflicting this sector, which has given rise to a significant shrinkage in traffic volumes both here and in Europe as a whole (-9.9% in 2009 as compared to the corresponding figure for 2008 – Eurocontrol data), Verona Catullo Airport has set its sights on an average growth rate of 7% over the next four years, leading up to an overall traffic level of 4.5 million passengers in 2014. The total traffic flow handled by this airport currently amounts to 3,065,968 passengers per annum.
The World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) forecasts that international traffic flows will again be heading upwards, albeit with growth rates less sharp than the average annual rate of +4.5% expected for this period. The foreseen fluctuation is between +1 and +3%, in close relation to the uncertainties that persist with regard to the extent and manner of economic recovery. In the specific case of the Verona airport, however, the positive growth data recorded over the last few months, further confirmed by January traffic figures in line with expectations, are certainly encouraging.
Attention has been drawn to the fact that in the development plan the airport traffic growth projections are closely correlated to the expansion of its infrastructures for passenger reception and aircraft handling, with an overall investment of 78 million euros, by exploiting the airport’s potential for development to up to four times its present capacity, following its change in status from military to civilian airport in 2008, which has given rise to the progressive conversion of its spaces from military to civilian uses.
Infrastructural development is one of the driving factors in the far-reaching process of change the airport is engaged in, with the aim of differentiating its passenger flow, to ensure that the business segment will find a service in line with its requirements while the low-cost component will be provided with a service based on its own specific needs. In particular, starting from the current year, a specific terminal will be dedicated to low-cost traffic, with simultaneous enlargement of the commercial and services areas and parking facilities dedicated to the low-cost segment.
The diversification of transit flows with specific infrastructures and services for different types of users makes it possible on the one hand to ensure constant alignment with passenger requirements, while on the other hand, it gives Catullo Airport the opportunity to take the lead in Italy as the first airport to adopt a totally innovative approach in the airport charges field by introducing two separate and distinct programmes, one for traditional airlines and the other for low-cost operators, based on different pricing logic. In the first case, traffic growth is followed up with proportionate increments in investments to support the increased service requirements with the necessary infrastructures (Vip Lounges, check-in areas, baggage sorting systems, boarding areas, fingers, ramp vehicles, etc.) with consequent prospective increases in the rates charged to carriers. In the second case, by providing passengers with essential services only (self/web check-in, baggage drop off, non-use of fingers, non-use of vehicles for boarding and disembarking, etc), in addition to greater saturation of the airport’s operational capacity it is also possible to achieve greater rationalisation effects in terms of overall economies of scale, thus allowing the possibility of decreasing charges as traffic volumes increase. This proposed scheme would be an absolute novelty in Italy, where amongst other things the airport charges issue has been at a standstill for many years.
It is thus clear that the transformation under way does not involve only airport infrastructures but the very nature of the airport itself: growth in low-cost segment is viewed as a key factor for its development. At present, the charter component accounts for 31% of traffic volume, scheduled airline flights for 56% and low-cost for 12%. Charter traffic is the segment most heavily affected by the recession, due to its exposure to tourist flow trends. For this reason, new commercial alliances are being developed which include extensive opening-up towards the low-cost component, already present to some extent in the airport. In the spring season, the low-cost connections by Vueling on Barcellona, Germanwings on Colonia and Transavia on Amsterdam will again be operative.
The airport will of course continue to feature a mixture of various types of traffic, in line with its natural vocation, handling both traditional air traffic and the charter flights segments, which will continue to play an extremely important role in its development. At the press conference, this was confirmed by the announcement of new connections with Casablanca, the connector hub for all Atlantic African destinations, operated by RAM (Royal Air Marocco) from 28th March 2010 onwards, which will serve Verona with three non-stop flights per week, and connections with Yerevan (Armenia), a leisure and business destination, operated by the company Air Italy.
A key role in driving the airport’s growth will continue to be played by Air Dolomiti and Air Italy, which have chosen Verona as their reference base.
Another key element in the development plan is the airport’s determination to play the role of tourism promotion aggregator for the region at international level, based on the awareness that on the complex internationl tourism market, promoting a route separately from the destination concerned is totally ineffective. It is therefore strategically essential to promote Verona Airport as the preferential acccess-point to the surrounding territorial areas, extending from Garda to the Dolomites, with the province of Brescia and Franciacorta to the west, the Trentino district with the Adige valley and its Dolomites to the north, Verona with its Roman legacy, Romeo and Giulietta and the Arena in the centre, Vicenza with Palladio’s magnificent villas to the east, and Mantua, the cultural treasurehouse of the Gonzagas in the south. And then of course Padua, Venice, Bolzano and the South Tyrol, Modena.... A territory that can be crossed by car in just over an hour but is seductively appealing every day of the year, thanks to its bounteous store of attractions in the fields of art, culture, sports, nature and enogastronomic traditions. And it is only by means of synergic interaction between the territory and its reference airport that promotional efforts at both national and international levels can be truly effective.
Some other novelties were then announced to the carriers that will make access to the Veronese airport even more attractive:
- The opening up of airport handling services to the market, with beneficial effects in terms of more competitive charges with consequent virtuous-circle effect whereby the various competing operators constantly seek better quality-price ratios for their services.
- • Before the end of 2010, thanks to infrastructural improvements now nearing completion, the necessary conditions will be assured for offering refuelling at far lower costs than the present levels, with considerable savings in overall airport accessing costs.
- From June 2010 onwards, the CTR Garda air traffic control service will be progressively taken over by Enav ( Ente Nazionale Assistenza al Volo – National Agency for Flight Assistance). This will entail an increase in the Verona airport’s capacity for the benefit of its flight operators, whose requests for slots will be more easily satisfied in the various periods of the year.
The airport maintains its strong focus on passenger service quality: in 2009, despite the considerable improvements in organisational efficiency introduced during the year, the level of customer satisfaction on the part of passengers passing through the airport remained excellent; in fact it was higher than in previous years in terms of ground personnel assistance services, comfort and the quality of commercial facilities (above 90% - source: Trend Analysis 2005-2009 on the Veronese airport).