This strand of work has examined the economic value of small and peripheral airports in the Northern Periphery & Arctic Area through identifying the different ways that they are important to the economic viability and development of the regions or sub-regions in which they are located, and the quantifiable difference that they can make to employment and other measures of economic welfare.
Wick John O’Groats Airport (pictured) in the far north of mainland Scotland was examined as a case study that was informed by surveys of passengers (residents, business staff, tourists to the area, and business and other visitors), business proprietors and managers, and other stakeholders (including the local Chamber of Commerce and Highlands and Islands Enterprise as the region’s economic development agency).
The catchment area of the airport is approximately 2,700 km2 and has a population of around 27,000; with the town of Wick approximately 3 hours by road or 5 hours by train and bus from the regional airport of Inverness. The two Wick John O’Groats air services operate to and from Aberdeen and Edinburgh – Scottish cities which are not served by Inverness airport and provide useful onward connection options.
The main finding from the impact study was that the airport is critically important to businesses and organisations in its catchment area, even though they might not often use it. This relates to their decision to locate or stay in the area, accessibility to business customers and suppliers, and attraction of key staff. The flights to Aberdeen have been important for people working in the offshore oil and gas industry and local businesses supplying the sector; with the Edinburgh service particularly important for inter-lining. The airport employed 34 full time equivalent staff in 2017.