Gordon Dewar: Selling Scotland to the world

Edinburgh Airport chief executive Gordon Dewar

Edinburgh Airport chief executive Gordon Dewar

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I’m going to start with a cliché (those that know me won’t be remotely surprised at this) as I tend to find that if something is cliché it’s invariably accurate.

Selling Scotland is everyone’s job.

Now, that’s not an abdication of responsibility – my team and I take our role in attracting people from all over the world to Edinburgh and Scotland extremely seriously – rather it’s an acknowledgement that we can’t do it alone.

Just as in a service business like an airport where customer service is everyone’s job, the same is true for the promotion of Scotland.

Put simply, we can’t bring airlines to Edinburgh Airport without the support of our city and our country.

It’s impossible to sell in a vacuum and in Scotland we’re fortunate that we don’t need to. We have support.

The good news for everyone is that we have something to sell. Edinburgh is rightly recognised globally as a world-class city and Scotland is a massive brand. It’s easy to see why. Our heritage, our built environment, our culture, our people. People want to visit us. People want to do business here.

But we can’t be complacent – other places have these elements and our task is to ensure that Scotland’s attributes are understood. The role of my team and I is to make it easy for the world to get here. Our brand – “Where Scotland Meets the World” – is not a hollow slogan; it underpins our entire strategy and is at the heart of all that we do.

So we work very hard in identifying those airlines that can flourish in Scotland and marry that with where our customers – the Scottish public – wish to go. We then take our proposition to market.

Invariably our proposition is a commercial one. A robust business case based on understanding passenger flows and the commerciality of aviation. Wrapped around this is everything else – government support, support from the city, support from the tourism sector and our business sector.

The approach is also crucial. The “Team Scotland” approach – agreed between airports, the Scottish Government and its agencies – works well. It’s based on a singular point of contact for negotiations, giving airlines clarity of the complete offer – the commercial and the supportive.

This is important. It not only allows us to have constructive and focused negotiations, it also sends a very strong signal to airlines that we, as a country, care about aviation and understand its benefits.

That’s a strong signal to an organisation like an airline that is about to make a massive and risk laden investment.

Another strong signal is the halving of air passenger duty by April 2018, which will have a fantastic impact on choice for Scots.

Contrast that with some of the signals sent by others countries (third runway anyone?) and you can see that having a clear view on the role of aviation in business and tourism is crucial.

Another cliché: an airport is only as good as the city it serves.

Edinburgh Airport has benefited massively from this. Our growth has been driven by the world-class city we serve. I’m unashamed to say that Edinburgh is Scotland’s attack brand. It is the brand that cuts through globally and the brand that attracts the most interest. That is why it is right that Edinburgh is at the vanguard of selling Scotland to the world.

Why would you not use your best asset in making your pitch? We know from our passengers that many journeys in Scotland begin in Edinburgh so a strong, focussed Capital will pay dividends across the country.

So we’ll continue to make the pitch, for Edinburgh and for Scotland. We’re grateful for your support.

• Gordon Dewar is chief executive of Edinburgh Airport and the IoD director of the year 2015. He is one of the keynote speakers at the Institute of Directors Scottish conference, “Beyond the Horizon”, taking place on Friday 6 November at Cameron House Hotel.

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