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Newcastle Airport’s head of aviation development Leon McQuaid and inbound tourism manager Jen Rea.
Jane Imrie

"Connectivity is key for the regional economy": How Newcastle Airport is putting the North East on the map

Newcastle Airport is strengthening the region’s links to the rest of the world. In 2019 the airport announced a raft of new routes, connecting the local area to domestic and international industrial hubs and tourist destinations alike.

In addition, the airport launched a brand new inbound marketing strategy designed to bolster tourism within the region.

The airport has big plans for the future too. Earlier this week, it announced that it plans to become a net zero emissions airport by the year 2035 in line with its centenary.

Bdaily spoke with Newcastle Airport’s head of aviation development Leon McQuaid and inbound tourism manager Jen Rea about the airport’s highlights for the past 12 months, as well as its vision for 2020.

There have been a range of new routes announced at Newcastle Airport in 2019. What are some of your highlights from the year?

LEON: In June, we announced that Lufthansa would be operating from Newcastle Airport to Munich.

“This was fantastic news for the region as the new route will not only provide six weekly services to the Bavarian capital, but will also provide onward connections to many more destinations including Vienna, Budapest, Milan, Frankfurt and Athens.

The city of Munich is packed to the brim with museums, culture and festivals – the most famous of course being the Oktoberfest. Skiing enthusiasts can also get off the beaten track and enjoy some of the best skiing in Europe in the Bavarian Alps.

“In March, Loganair joined the Airport and commenced services to Brussels and Stavanger. They quickly added Aberdeen to their network and since then have further invested in their North East base announcing new routes to Newquay, Bergen and Guernsey.

“TUI have significantly invested in NCL for 2020, they have added Skiathos and Santorini, Greece and Hurghada in Egypt to their schedule for next summer - destinations we would have lost due to the collapse of Thomas Cook.

“Furthermore they have also announced the return of Sharm el Sheikh for winter 2020 – this is more great news for our passengers as it was a very popular destination.

“Flybe recently announced that it would be adding a new service to London Southend. Starting on the 29th March, not only will the route provide additional capacity into the capital, we also hope it will encourage inbound traffic into the region.

“During the year, 99 per cent of passengers passed through security in under six minutes, which helped the Airport to win the ASQ ‘Best Airport Of Its Size’ award –which focuses on customer service.

“The airport continued to invest in its terminal with a range of new facilities opening over the course of the year. Including the multi-million-pound premium meet and greet car park, the new Quaystone Bar and Kitchen restaurant, and a sensory area for passengers with disabilities – a first for any airport in the North of England.”

What industries do you feel are going to benefit from the newly added routes and how will this impact the local economy?

LEON: “Connectivity is key for the regional economy and we’re proud that we can provide this as the North East’s largest airport.

“We have over 110 flights per week to hubs across the world with thousands of passengers connecting on to destinations further afield each year.

“Newcastle Airport’s significant airline and destination portfolio, as well as its strong hub connectivity, means we’re connected globally - and the new Lufthansa service will make it even easier to access the world from NCL.

“Germany is the largest inbound tourism market to the North East, meaning that the local economy will benefit from thousands of additional tourists travelling on the Lufthansa route. We are actively promoting the North East Region in Germany through our Visit North East England website.

“Munich is also one of the most important German regions for North East businesses, regional companies such as Zero Light, Motel One and Liebherr Sunderland Works have expressed an interest in commuting via the route.

“All of the new routes will give the people of the North East an enhanced choice of both business connections and leisure destinations.”

As well as passenger routes, how much of a part does cargo movement play in the airport’s operational performance?

LEON: “Emirates carries the majority of cargo to and from the Airport. The majority of cargo used on this route is low-weight high-value goods, such as manufacturing component car parts, which are flown and distributed across the world.

“In 2018, Emirates carried around £350m worth of freight, which represents a 125% growth over the past 10 years. We are keen to work with businesses from across the north of the UK to grow the volume of cargo movements on our flights.”

What do you feel that the North East as a region has to offer travellers, both from a business and leisure perspective?

JEN: “The North East boasts a number world-famous sightseeing spots, including two UNESCO World Heritage Sites on the doorstep – Hadrian’s Wall and Durham Cathedral.

“It is a region rich in contemporary culture, historical attractions and dramatic landscapes, which makes it the perfect destination for inbound tourists. The North East has an abundance of premium hotels, spacious conference areas and resources for business travellers.

“In 2019, we launched our own inbound tourism marketing strategy for the North East – with the aim of boosting the regional economy. The website targets thousands of extra tourists from across Europe and beyond - which aims to increase the number of visitors to the region.

“We worked with VB to identify key audience segments in our European target markets, all with opportunities for growth.

“Each audience has different products and experiences that appeals to them – with that in mind we chose to focus our initial marketing efforts on the ‘Buzzseeker’ and ‘Explorer’ audience segments – both of these appear in our target oversees markets and are interested in what the North East has to offer.

“The ‘Buzzseeker’ audience is generally younger (64 per cent aged 18-34), they are free spirited, spontaneous and like to take holidays full of action and excitement. The ‘Explorer’ audience is slightly older (58 per cent aged 55+), they enjoy holidays at a more relaxed pace and love the outdoors whilst embracing local culture.

“The project showcases all of the North East’s best destinations and attractions through the newly-developed platform and a range of high-quality digital marketing activities.”

What are the Airport’s plans for 2020?

LEON: “10 new services will take to the skies in 2020, including the Lufthansa route to Munich and Loganair’s new route to Bergen.

“A brand new luxury lounge boasting high-end hospitality and stunning runway views will open in time for summer 2020.

“A second phase of the popular NCL Airport App will be released, offering passengers more functionality and additional features to support the journey through the terminal.”

JEN: “From an Inbound Tourism perspective, 2020 will see further enhancements to the Visit North East England website.

“We will continue to work collaboratively with the region’s tourism organisations on new products to promote oversees and content for our marketing campaigns.

“We will be continuing to target the ‘Buzzseeker’ and ‘Explorer’ audience segments in more targeted campaigns in various European markets.”

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