More than 3000 aviation delegates will flood into Adelaide in September to celebrate an event that is not just a first for Australia but an event that will directly contribute $20 million to the local economy.
The World Routes conference also brings to South Australia a hotbed of networking that will sow the seeds for longer-term relationships that can add millions more.
World Routes is a huge event on the global aviation calendar and it was a major coup for the team of Adelaide Airport, Tourism Australia and the South Australian Government to secure the 2019 event.
The successful bid builds on the city’s success in hosting the Routes Asia conference in 2010 and allows South Australia to showcase its attractions to airlines from around the world.
Adelaide Airport managing director Mark Young said the Routes Asia conference was the first time the event had been held outside of Asia and also an Australian first.
“I think we did it in quite a unique and innovative way that was well regarded,” Young says.
“Building on that, we decided — and when I say we I’m talking obviously about the airport but we worked very with our state government and in particular our South Australian Tourism Commission — to have a crack at World Routes.”
Young says the main aim of Routes is to get all the relevant aviation route development people and businesses in the same room.
“It’s an opportunity for cities and their airports to pitch to airlines so that you can get in their forward planning,” he says.
“Of course, deals do get done and announcements do get made but it is more about continuing the ongoing effort of targeting those airlines that you think will suit your city and your state the best and just maintaining the relationship.
“Most of the airlines we’ll be talking to as Adelaide Airport at Routes here in September are airlines we are constantly talking to and visiting around the world throughout the year.”
Even so, the airport boss notes that holding the conference in Adelaide is a great opportunity for people to come and experience the product themselves.
“We have a lot to offer and it’s just terrific to have these decision-makers here and keep this destination in the forefront of their minds as they’re making their fleet and their route development decisions in the months and years to come,” he says.
“That’s why it is a coup for us to have these 3000 delegates here and have the opportunity for us to put our best foot forward.”
Face-to-face meetings are at the core of the 21-24 September conference — organisers estimate there will be about 13,000 meetings over the three days — but there is also a significant program of addresses and panel discussions.
Topics this year will include advancing women in aviation, the battle for India’s skies, game-changing aircraft and the emergence of China and South-East Asia as the global aviation powerhouse.
Also on the program are airline briefings from carriers such Tigerair Australia, airBaltic, Air India and JetBlue.
The main venue is the Adelaide Showground but there are gala events and welcoming ceremonies at the Adelaide Convention Centre.
“Delegates will be able to experience quite a bit of the city just through that alone,” Young says.
There are also complimentary tours of attractions such as South Australia’s globally renowned winemaking regions and Adelaide itself.
One of the big beneficiaries of the conference will be the city’s hotel industry which has seen a surge of investment in the past 18 months.
Youngs says there has been about 24 new hotels announced in the Adelaide CBD and metropolitan area, with about 700 rooms under construction across 10 developments.
He says South Australia has been one of the fastest-growing states for international visitor traffic.
“There’s $2 billion plus in potential investment there just in hotel development so the product is rising to meet the demand,” he observes.
There has also been a response in regional areas such as the Limestone Coast, Kangaroo Island, the Barossa and Eyre Peninsula in terms of the development of tourism product.
“People are looking for fresh experiences, they’re looking for genuine, authentic experiences,” he says. “The connectivity within South Australia and the closeness to the city of some really great experiences, within an hour, is quite unique.
“I think people are starting to switch on to that, not just international visitors but domestic visitors as well.
“We’ve seen something like $7.2 billion … from people coming into the state and spending their tourism dollars, which is an all-time record actually.”
As for the airport’s plans at Routes, Young said it would continue to focus on its largest underserved markets.
Despite year-to-date international growth to June of just under 6 per cent, he estimates about 40 per cent of South Australia’s overseas traffic comes via the domestic network from other ports.
He says the top three underserved markets are the US, New Zealand and China.
“China’s our fastest growing inbound visitor market now, it accounts for over 17 per cent of our source inbound visitor market,” he says. “But it still is in our top three underserved routes.
“The USA is a more medium- to longer-term aspiration for us but we have something like 140,000 passenger trips per annum from Adelaide to the West Coast of the US and North America generally.
“That’s unstimulated. A direct route in our view would see that market stimulated and we could go up to possibly 180,000 to 200,000 passengers per annum.”
He notes those sorts of routes are possible now with aircraft such as the Boeing 787-9.
He adds: “When we present to airlines, we focus on new aircraft types, we focus on their current routes around the world and what we see as their fleet mix and forward orders and we put forward proposals that we think make sense to them.
“That’s how we go about marketing the route but primarily when we’re out marketing to airlines, we’re marketing the state.
“And it’s not just the visitor economy we promote, we promote the business connections, the freight and the trade connections because that’s what airlines want to see.”
By Steve Creedy
About Steve Creedy
An award-winning journalist, Steve began covering aviation in the United States in the early nineties before returning to Australia later that decade and editing The Australian’s aviation section for 17 years. He is editor of Airline Ratings and has co-authored books on industry initiatives aimed at reducing greenhouse emissions.
Steve has joined the AAA to write interesting and informative editorial on the aviation industry.