Edinburgh Airport chief warns Scotland’s global influence and competitiveness could be undermined unless new government creates urgent Covid recovery plan for travel and tourism industry

Edinburgh Airport’s boss has called for the new Scottish government to urgently create a detailed pandemic recovery plan for the travel and tourism industry to maintain Scotland’s global influence and economic competitiveness.

Chief executive Gordon Dewar predicts Scotland will support fewer direct routes in the future, and that Scots will have to fly or export goods through London or European hub airports at higher cost, unless immediate action is taken to engage with airports and airlines.

He said: “Scotland has collectively built an impressive network of international air services in the last 20 years, which provides the country with the connectivity on which our global influence and competitiveness depends.

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“That network is being undermined by the lack of a detailed Covid recovery plan that we can, as a country, present to airlines to give them the confidence to fly to and from Scotland. Direct connections are vital to avoid us all having to travel through airports in England or in Europe, to allow efficient exporting of our goods to overseas markets and to welcome tourists and students to Scotland, on which so many jobs depend.

Edinburgh Airport chief executive Gordon Dewar.

“Scotland’s recovery from Covid is going to be one of the most difficult challenges that the country has and will ever have faced. The pandemic has touched every single aspect of our lives and while we have adapted well to the challenging circumstances, this period will have long-lasting consequences. It is imperative that the recovery plan is well-structured and comprehensive and that it engages industry and is not just imposed without an appreciation of the realities of the sector.”

Airlines typically plan and publish schedules months in advance, and Mr Dewar believes the uncertainty around Scottish airports will lead to a reduction in the number of direct flights in the early recovery, risking permanent change and leaving Scotland dependent on other airports like Heathrow.

He also highlights that the industry supports thousands of jobs and generates billions of pounds for the Scottish economy every year.

BiGGAR Economics produced a report which found that in 2019, Edinburgh Airport generated £1.4 billion Gross Value Added (GVA) and 28,000 jobs in the Scottish economy.

Airport bosses want the new government to produce a clear roadmap to recovery and a vision to support aviation’s immediate and longer term future and grown.

They also want a “comprehensive approach” to pre-departure and arrival testing to protect public health and allow passengers to travel with confidence.

Mr Dewar is also asking for a commitment to safeguard the sector from the damage of any future restrictions to work closely with airports to protect jobs and established routes.

He added: “This is not about the narrow interests of Edinburgh Airport – it is about the social and economic benefits that come to us all from a thriving system of airports and airlines, connecting people and goods and services with the world beyond our shores and forging enduring cultural and educational connections.

“When the election is over and the new Scottish government elected, we would hope they can get started on the recovery on day one. We will be ready to support wherever and whenever we can, and those conversations must start now.”

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