North Queensland Airports chief executive officer Norris Carter sees a real opportunity for airports to build their place in the community.
He believes the travelling public appreciates the work of airports to provide the best possible first and last impression of their cities and towns, but want to know more about how airports are working in partnership with their communities.
It’s a focus he sees the Australian Airports Association (AAA) playing a role in as it advocates for the airport industry.
Joining the AAA Board in 2019, Carter says he saw his involvement with the association as both an opportunity and an obligation.
“For the AAA to deliver the maximum benefit to its membership, the members have to be actively involved in the association,” Carter says. “I see this as a real opportunity to help shape the AAA as both a member and as part of the Board.”
As the AAA’s major airports director, Carter brings the experience of leading Cairns Airport, the country’s seventh largest airport by passenger numbers.
But he also oversees the management of Mackay Airport and says the unique issues facing regional airports will not be far from his mind in his work on the AAA Board.
“I can see how the issues that the major airports deal with also trickle down,” he says.
“You’ve got to bring the whole perspective to things and, while I’m the major airport representative, I also lead a smaller airport.
“I think if we create this voice for the industry as a whole at the AAA, the opportunity for us to really tell that story and bring that to life is huge.”
Carter notes there are a number of ways the AAA will need to meet the needs of its membership as the industry continues to evolve.
He sees the AAA’s ability to share technical knowledge and expertise is one of its major strengths.
“Having the capacity to invest in development and skills becomes challenging as you get smaller, so being able to draw on the technical expertise that the AAA has developed is really powerful.”
He observes that while online education and the AAA’s airport practice notes are central to the sharing of technical expertise, networking opportunities through events remain important.
“It’s all about bringing the industry together through events like the national conference,” he says.
“Often the challenge you’re focusing on is something someone else has focused on or are already a bit down the track with.”
But perhaps the most key focus area for Carter is building the AAA’s role as a voice for industry.
“That’s both to the travelling public, who I think appreciate what airports do, but also to the government and policy stakeholders.
“Airports, especially in smaller cities and towns, are critical pieces of infrastructure that provide connectivity and drive economic growth.”
And he says sustainability will be at the forefront of discussion in the year ahead as the aviation sector addresses changing expectations from its customers.
He notes the flight shaming movement to emerge from Europe and says it will be important for airports to demonstrate how they are supporting a more sustainable industry and contributing to solutions.
“It’s going to be important for us to speak up as an industry,” Carter says.
“It’s about how we both respond to the challenge and take the opportunities to do good things as well.
“We’ve done that to some extent with our focus on sustainable tourism in Cairns – it is all about showing the benefits airports provide to the community.”
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