UK coastal regions suffer while Gatwick sucks UK tourists and their money out of the country
Gatwick is well known to be a holiday and leisure trips airport. Its passengers are predominantly going on low cost flights, with about 80% to European destinations. The small number of long haul destinations is about the same as in 2007. The long haul airports it serves are all for UK leisure passengers, to the Caribbean, Florida etc – and are not for the purpose of bringing inbound visitors to the UK. The rise of low cost holiday flights, over the past 20 years or so, has meant the demise of many UK costal towns as very cheap travel (and dependable heat and sunshine) have drained away visitors. The government has put up £90 million of public funding to help boost some of these struggling towns. Yet Transport for London has said a 2nd Gatwick runway would need about £10 billion of public funding to deal with the increase in the number of passengers and all the associated ancillary traffic. This public money would merely facilitate access to Gatwick, in order that more UK money could be exported – as Brits take their holiday money to spend abroad. The excess of the money spent by Brits spending abroad, over that spent by inbound visitors in Britain is called the Tourism Deficit. It reached a total of £16.9 billion in 2015, ably assisted by Gatwick. With unknown impacts of Brexit, a new report from CAGNE questions the wisdom of the government allowing Gatwick to build a new runway, with all the financial questions raised.
Cheap ‘bucket and spade’ holidays impact coastal areas
23.8.2016 (CAGNE press release)
CAGNE = Communities Against Gatwick Noise and Emissions
Campaigners on Brighton beach
Should the Government be considering selecting Gatwick for expansion when its principal business model is to export UK citizens to Europe for low cost holidays, via budget airlines?
The 1960’s saw the first package holidays to Spain and there started the decline of our coastal regions, so why is the Government considering expanding Gatwick Airport which is dependent upon package holiday business? This brings, according to the Airports Commission final report, the least into the UK economy and is potentially badly affected by recession?
The UK coastal regions are crying out for investment, for rejuvenation. Only recently the Government shared £90m amongst the coastal regions of the UK and yet Gatwick expansion will cost the taxpayer £10bn alone just for the essential surface access according to Transport for London.*** [TfL show how badly the Commission underestimated the costs to the public purse of either the Heathrow or the Gatwick runway scheme. AW note].
The Southeast coastal regions are some of the most attractive in the world. Brighton is listed as one of the top beach destinations in the world, [ranked 27th by TripAdvisor of all global great beaches. Link AW note]. Yet the Government seeks to spend billions on surface transport infrastructure the primary aim of which will be to deliver UK citizens to Gatwick in order to fly overseas on holiday.
Jonathan Essex, Green Party County Councillor for Surrey added:
“The aviation industry benefits from tax breaks but doesn’t pay for the detrimental impact it has on the climate or the quality of the air we all breathe. We have amazing countryside and beautiful beaches in the South East, yet holiday-makers are continually drawn away by artificially cheap short haul flights. Holidaying in the UK benefits local people and local economies. Jetting off abroad sends our money flying out of our pockets and into the hands of Gatwick Airport Limited’s foreign shareholders.”
Terrorism, health fears, air traffic control strikes, the refugee crisis and the exchange rates have all raised concerns for the travelling public and the airlines, and so it should sound alarm bells for the Government to think again about expanding an airport that could become a white elephant (see CAGNE Report White Elephant at www.cagne.org) as the leisure market is impacted, and potentially the UK dips into recession.
A report released today by CAGNE – Communities Against Gatwick Noise and Emissions – Bucket n Spade Airport impact Coastal Regions clearly shows how Gatwick is reliant upon European travel and package holidays and how it therefore suffers the most during recession. Facts and figures provided by the Civil Aviaiton Authority and other references can be found on the back page of the report.
The report details how, post Brexit, low cost airlines are suffering in the downturn of overseas travel by families, and the drop in the value of the pound.
Gatwick’s number one customer, EasyJet, is due to relocate to the North Terminal in January 2017 at great expense. Yet it has seen a drop in share value and has made profit warnings to shareholders, and has even suggested moving operations overseas, commented Aviation Weekly, on July 26th
“From our point of view, this is, for airlines, one of the most difficult periods we have seen in a long time,” EasyJet Chief Executive Carolyn McCall says. “Advance bookings, especially in long-haul routes to Europe, have declined significantly, in particular due to the repeated terrorist attacks in Europe and to a greater political and economic uncertainty.”
The Airport Commission detailed connecting with developing countries as the future for UK growth, as did the recent KMPG and Let Britain Fly report. The new CAGNE report clearly shows Gatwick has had no success in this area either.
“It would seem total madness for the Government to be considering spending billions of taxpayer money on an airport that financially impacts our coastal regions. To encourage more people to fly to Europe for low cost holidays by expanding Gatwick would seem to work totally against our holiday resorts who are crying out for custom.
Tom Druitt, Green Party City Councillor and Economic Development spokesperson for Brighton and Hove said:
“The government must recognise there is no case for expansion. It is, and always has been, a myth that the UK faces an airport capacity crisis; we already fly more than any other country. It is the huge budgets of the airport and pro-expansion lobbies that have been deployed to convince us otherwise. All but one UK airport is under-capacity and demand is predicted to fall, rather than rise, following the decision to leave the EU.
Existing rail services could offer workable alternatives to short-haul flights, freeing up capacity at airports and thus releasing landing slots for longer haul flights. Instead of spending billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money on unnecessary expansion, Theresa May could be investing in the home grown tourism industry that is vital to our coastal communities.
With climate experts warning that Britain is on course to miss key climate targets, it’s important to note that meeting our climate change commitments while building any major new runways is impossible – the two policies are wholly incompatible. I am calling on Theresa May to be bold, to stand up to big business propaganda, and reject the environmentally detrimental expansion proposals, not just at Gatwick, but at Heathrow too.”
The report is at Bucket n Spade Airport impact Coastal Regions
* New long haul destinations 2050 Heathrow 75: Gatwick 21.
Airports Commission final report page 21.
** GDP increase Heathrow (carbon traded) £137-147 billion: Gatwick
£89 billion. Heathrow (carbon capped) £103-129 billion: Gatwick
£44 billion. Airports Commission final report page 26.
New long haul destinations 2050 Heathrow 75: Gatwick 21.
Airports Commission final report page 21.
*** TfL Mayor Surface Access Supplementary Note 04 February 2015
CAGNE sent buckets and spades, by post, to senior relevant Cabinet members and MPs, to remind them that Gatwick is largely a “Bucket and Spade” airport
Below are some extracts from the report:
…”Holidays and package holidays have evolved and the low prices (and the sunshine) have made going abroad a more tantalising option than holidaying in the UK. This has been to the detriment to our coastal regions and many UK seaside towns’ economies were badly affected by the advent of cheaper foreign travel in the 1970s.
This led to a depleted economy in these communities, low skills base and “dangerously high levels of family breakdown”.*** Since then our own UK-based holiday industry has suffered and continues to decline, and now it faces the possibility of a massive new ‘bucket and spade’ airport at Gatwick 2 eating up resources and taking travellers and their money out of the country by the plane load.
A Centre for Social Justice ‘think tank’ report commented on coastal regions saying: ‘living standards in some of the UK’s best-known coastal towns have declined “beyond recognition” and locals were now “bearing the brunt of severe levels of social breakdown…………We must ramp up efforts to revive Britain’s coastal towns, not just for visitors but for the people who live there”.”
…. “Transport for London estimates £10bn is needed for infrastructure to connect to a second runway airport alone. So surely the question this Government should be asking is should they be looking to spend billions of pounds of public money to support the privately-owned holiday airport, Gatwick, which is reliant upon exporting UK citizens overseas to spend money outside of the UK?
Meanwhile, our coastal regions are screaming out for Government funding and regeneration of their facilities to attract holiday makers once more. Since 2012, the government has invested £120 million in coastal projects through a dedicated Coastal Communities Fund, and yet it is apparently considering taking custom away from these UK communities by subsidising Gatwick’s expansion.”
… “In 2014, the Government undertook a campaign to promote our coastal holiday areas to UK residents, and also heritage sites, National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. “Stay at home and enjoy the natural richness of our country”, was the slogan. While facilitating just the opposite, Gatwick 2 would also desecrate a National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty that lie on three sides of the airport, as well as heritage sites and Listed Buildings.”
… “The historical pattern of business for Gatwick paints a picture of an airport that is vulnerable to recession, since it is reliant upon the holiday trade. The airport’s reduction in flights in the winter echoes this, and Gatwick is at its busiest during the school holidays.
In fact, the 2014 increase in passenger numbers at Gatwick was unusual. The previous year, for example, passenger numbers increased by just 1.2 million and average growth between 2004 and 2014, even with spare capacity available, was less than 0.7 million a year. In the 13 years between 2000 and 2013, passenger numbers grew by an average of just 260,000 per year, less than one percent.
Only in 2014 and 2015 did traffic growth increase significantly at Gatwick, but this is more likely a result of other factors such as low fuel prices and strong UK economic growth.”
… “In the last recession, passenger numbers at Gatwick dipped by 11% and took 6 years to recover. By contrast, Heathrow’s numbers dipped by 3% and took 4 years to recover.
Gatwick is not recession proof and is the risky option given the uncertain economic times ahead as it is reliant upon spare money the consumer has to spend on holidays.”
… Even Gatwick’s limited long-haul routes are, to a large extent, holiday traffic exporting people and money. Almost half of all Gatwick’s long-haul flights go to pure leisure destinations and are operated by package companies – it is very unlikely that a single business passenger will use these routes, nor any inbound tourist. ”
…”Gatwick is simply a EU airport, dependent on short-haul, low-cost ‘bucket and spade’ traffic. 80% of all Gatwick flights go to the EU (compared to 50% at Heathrow), and it has totally inadequate infrastructure (the UK’s nightmare M25 motorway and an even worse railway line, the infamous Brighton Line), for which there are no plans to improve. There is no underground connection within twenty miles, no Crossrail of course, and no HS2 connection. This is not the airport capable of securing the UK’s economic future outside of the EU.”
… “Thus, should the taxpayer be massively supporting a privately-owned airport with an enormous requirement for public expenditure to build new offsite infrastructure to enable it to function? An airport that principally facilitates the spending of hard earned UK currency effectively exporting wealth via UK holiday tourists travelling to Spain, Europe, Dubai and Florida, rather than investing in our coastal regions and the UK economy?”
… “Results from GBTS (Great Britain Tourism Survey) reveal that 93 million domestic overnight trips were taken within England in 2014, a decrease of 9% compared with 2013. The value of domestic overnight trips fell by 3%, from £18.7 billion in 2013 to £18 billion in 2014. Reflecting the national trend, the volume of domestic overnight trips fell by 9% in the South East in 2014 compared to 2013 (from 17.9 million to 16.2 million). According to the national survey results, domestic overnight trips spend in the South East saw a greater drop than seen at national level; down by 8% compared to national level of 3%. ”
… “Moody’s (Financial Services) assessed that Gatwick’s plans for a second runway are “credit negative” and that “financial risks associated with the scheme are high”. Gatwick’s performance in the “uncertain times” of the past would give any investor substantial cause for concern – passenger numbers dipped by 11% during the 2007 recession and took until 2013 to recover (Heathrow’s dipped by 3% and recovered by 2011).”
… “Could we see a decline in holiday air travel due to terrorism?
The recent terrorist-related incidents in Sousse, Nice, Paris, and Germany; the Turkey civil unrest; heavily armed soldiers on the beaches of Greece with refugees washing and sleeping on the shores; armed military guards on the beaches of St Tropez, as well as strikes by French and Spanish air traffic controllers, could all deter UK families from venturing abroad. Gatwick now has the added burden of Zika spreading into Florida, and pregnant women warned to postpone travel to infected areas”
…. and there is much more