Regional Airports Interaction for Regional Development

Project to increase the competitiveness of regional airports

Since the fall of the “Iron Curtain” in 1990, the conversion of former military airports into civil airports has become a hot topic. In many largely isolated regions, a well-functioning regional airport is an important factor which can substantially improve economic, social and territorial cohesion in the long term. Encouraging sustainable economic development and improving competitiveness are some of the objectives of the INTERREG IIIB CADSES program.

The RAIRDev (Regional Airports Interaction for Regional Development) project forms part of the INTERREG IIIB CADSES Transnational Cooperation Program, which is partly financed by the European Union. RAIRDev’s main goal is to boost the economic development and competitiveness of regional airports and the regions they serve, by better integrating them into an efficient, integrated multimodal transport system. This is done in cooperation with all decision makers in air transport, transport planning and regional development.

The ERAN network (Regional Airports and Stakeholders Network) was founded in July 2008, and continued and grew once the project period ended. It has enabled the transfer of knowledge and exchange of experience between airport operators and regional representatives, as well as interested parties from the regional economy and other involved parties. The ERAN network can already point to initial successes.

Over the past two years, the Steinbeis Transfer Center Applied Systems Analysis (STASA), together with partners from eight European countries, has been investigating issues regarding the local economic impact of regional airports as part of the RAIRDev project, including:

  • What effect does a regional airport have on the economic performance of a region, and how can this be evaluated?
  • How many jobs and investments are directly or indirectly linked to the airport?
  • What can be learned from the development and experiences of individual regional airports so far, and applied to the development of other airports?
  • How can regional airports be better linked to one another to improve synergistic effects?
  • What effect do accessibility and other factors have on the growth of passenger and cargo volume?

Quantitative answers to these questions can only be obtained using a mixed methodology developed by STASA. In each participating country, a regional airport is singled out and evaluated, and suggestions for improved regional integration and sustainable regional development are compiled. As well as the usual literature review, the evaluation of the airport’s impact also includes identifying appropriate indicators which can be used to measure the regional economic effects, combined with a classic statistical analysis over time. In addition to this, a shift-share analysis developed and adapted by STASA for identifying regional effects was implemented. In the case of Karlsruhe/Baden-Baden airport, newer statistical analysis methods were applied to assess small-scale effects along with their regional correlations. Interviews with experts also formed part of the evaluation.

The German case study included an evaluation of the economic impact of Karlsruhe/ Baden-Baden airport as a location factor, with respect to creating new jobs, attracting new companies and residents to the surrounding area, and increasing tourism. The results of the evaluations supported the theory that regional airports have a positive effect on the economic growth of their local area, and lead to improved economic, social and territorial cohesion.  

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