BVEP chairman Michael Hirst OBE says that the planned expansion to Heathrow Airport, which was approved in a vote by MPs on 25 June, will strengthen the UK’s position at the forefront of the events industry.
“Heathrow is the main hub airport for business travellers into Britain”, he exclusively told EW's sister title Conference News. “Its eventual expansion will enable the essential growth in business visitors to conferences, exhibitions and other events as we strengthen the country’s position as a destination for world class events.”
The expansion, which will see a third runway put into place, does not yet have a date set for its completion, but will be an on-going process over the coming years. The Times reports that the expansion is set to increase flights from 480,000 to 740,000 a year, and take the number of annual passengers up to 130m.
However, the expansion is not just set to benefit London, Hirst claims. He said: “Greater connectivity between Heathrow and other transport links to the rest of Britain will mean faster access to event locations nationwide. This is recognised in the sector’s bid as part of the Industrial Strategy with regard to the role of events in attracting and dispersing visitors across the country.”
This sentiment is echoed by the Department of Transport, which, as The Times reports, says it is determined to secure new internal flight routes in Britain to ensure that the whole country feels the benefit of the expansion.
Transport secretary Chris Grayling described the expansion as “a clear path to our future as a global nation in the post-Brexit world.”
Craig Kreeger, CEO of Virgin Atlantic, is excited at the prospect of the third runway: He said: “We firmly believe that Heathrow is the right choice for expansion and applaud this landmark parliamentary vote. As the country’s only hub airport, Heathrow is uniquely placed to support continued growth in UK trade and tourism – sending a strong signal to the world that we’re open for business.
“An expanded Heathrow must provide desperately needed, and long overdue, airline competition to deliver more international destinations, lower fares and better connectivity to UK regions.
“As we look to the future there are still a lot of important milestones and decisions ahead. It’s important that Heathrow, the Government and airline maintain the momentum to deliver an expansion which offers value for money for passengers, effective competition, and is mindful of the community.”