“Bilbao Bizkaia’s comprehensive connectivity strategy is impressive”

“Bilbao Bizkaia’s comprehensive connectivity strategy is impressive”
“Bilbao Bizkaia’s comprehensive connectivity strategy is impressive”

Routes Europe 2024 will bring together key decision makers from airlines, airports, destinations and aviation stakeholders involved in developing and investing in the future of European air connectivity. The Route Development Committee of Bilbao Airport will attend this major event, one of the most important at international level, which will take place from 22nd to 24th April in Aarhus (Denmark) to strengthen and reinforce existing routes and explore new connections. Steven Small, Director of Events, has granted us an exclusive interview in which he reviews this year’s novelties, the challenges currently facing the european aviation sector, as well as his opinion on Bilbao Bizkaia’s air connectivity. “Your comprehensive strategy to increase the flow of visitors to the destination is impressive: ongoing dialogues with airline partners, engagement with media influencers, working with tour operators and travel agencies, and direct-to-consumer digital marketing. You understand that the best kind of marketing is ultimately to increase air connectivity to the destination and you have emphasised the importance of the Routes conferences in driving this objective.

Question: What’s new in Routes Europe?

Answer: This year, the Welcome Reception will take place the day before the event at Centralværkstedet for Routes Europe. By moving the first networking event, delegates will be able to catch up with their industry partners ahead of the first business day and have more time to visit exhibitors during the event.

Following feedback from our community, we have also invested in a brand new registration system for the event. We trialled the new system at Routes Americas last month in Bogota and received incredibly positive feedback around the process. Ultimately, we made this investment to reduce queues and maximise networking time.

Q: How many stakeholders will be involved in this year’s event?

A: Over 60% of previous attendees say that their route development activities with industry partners have significantly increased in the last six months. Continuing to provide an efficient and collaborative forum in which our community can achieve these interactions is of the utmost importance to our business.

We will be welcoming over 1,000 decision makers from the route development community in Aarhus later this month. VPs and Heads of Network Planning from over 95 of the region’s leading carriers will be negotiating with their airport and destination partners over the course of the three days. We also have many out of region carriers represented including AirAsia, American Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Delta Air Lines and WestJet.

Q: What has been the evolution of Routes in recent years?

A: The Routes events have, and continue to be, focused on uniting stakeholders that can drive forward air connectivity. In recent years, we have seen an increase of destinations being represented at our events. Our airline partners consistently highlight that this collaboration between an airport and destination is integral to sustainable route development. Bilbao is a fantastic example of this approach.

Q: What challenges does the European aviation sector face today?

A: The European aviation industry faces several regulatory challenges as governments enact measures to address environmental concerns. This is a region that is setting ambitious targets and pioneering initiatives to transform the sector, from cutting-edge technologies to robust policy frameworks. As an organisation, we feel that it is important for our events to provide a forum in which best practice can be shared that will ultimately lead the industry to reach environmental targets quicker.

Q: Bilbao Airport  Route Development Committee has been attending Routes for years. Do you know the destination Bilbao Bizkaia? What do you think about its current connectivity?

A: Having hosted Routes Europe in 2018, I am very familiar with Bilbao as a destination. It is an example of urban transformation at a global level and has maintained a number of hallmarks that make it singular and unique such as the Guggenheim Museum and Casco Viejo.

Your comprehensive strategy towards increasing visitor flows to your destination is very impressive – ongoing dialogues with airline partners, engaging with media influencers, working with tour operators and travel agencies, and digital marketing direct to consumers. You understand that the best kind of marketing is ultimately increasing air connectivity to the destination and have highlighted the importance of the Routes conferences in driving this.

I am actually heading to Bilbao on a personal holiday with friends at the start of May. Having only visited on business, I am so looking forward to having the time to explore the city and wider region at a more leisurely pace!