The free movement of goods, services, capital, and people-these are the pillars that form an essential foundation for welfare and employment in Europe. Mobility is the fundamental premise for these four core values to be strengthened not only in the domestic market but also beyond its borders. This is particularly significant in the Baltic Sea region, where a well thought-out and developed transport system is one of the positive development factors. Flight-related activities have both direct and indirect impact on the economy. The direct impact includes the income derived from the activities of airline personnel and ground handling workers, whereas the indirect input implies all purchases in the aviation sector from locally based suppliers who basically do not represent the aviation sector. Additional impact on the economy of Latvia is formed by the costs of aviation sector employees and service providers.
More than 30 airports are located in Lithuania
There are four international airports operating in Lithuania - in Kaunas, Palanga, Siauliai, and, of course, in Vilnius, and there are more than 30 smaller airports and military airfields. In Estonia, airports are mainly located in the capital in Tallinn, as well as in Tartu, Kuressaare, Kerdle and Pärnu. These are international airports, however, there are more than 15 private and military airports and so-called airports of local importance located throughout the country. Latvia still has only two international airports - in Riga and in Liepaja; there are also small airdromes, for example, in Spilva, in Tukums and Ventspils, and several other military flight platforms though. Riga International Airport entered the top five rapidly growing airports in Europe last year, which lead to an increase in the number of passengers by 16.2%. Therefore, it underscores the fact that even though the airport in Liepaja will have to put a lot of time and effort to its development, it brings a great potential, which can give a significant and valuable contribution to the domestic economy of the country.
A successful start is taken after reconstruction
The airport in Liepaja did a great job - in 2015 after its reconstruction was completed. At the airport a significant drainage effort was undertaken, a new cover for the take-off track was laid, the take-off strip was reinforced, the cover of the shunting route was improved and expanded, parking places for the aircraft were renovated as well. After Liepaja Airport was certified for commercial flights for the summer season in 2016, the Latvian national airline "AirBaltic" launched regular flights between Riga and Liepaja. During the first half of that year, more than 4,780 passengers were transported along this route. The five most popular destinations for transit flights along the Liepaja route include London, Berlin, Moscow, Copenhagen, and Hamburg, which, in general, brought very good results.
Keeping in mind the processes that are still underway, it is important to mention the extensive capacity-building of the airports, environment protection in a long-term, enhancement of cooperation with other regional airports in Europe. It is not enough for Latvia to have only one high-capacity airport - we have a regional leader who can serve as an example of a successful market behavior for others.
Support strategy for attracting new aviation communities
Liepaja airport is the only example nowadays in terms of Latvian regional airports, however, I see several competitive regional airports in Latvia. To promote their development, a thorough analysis of the passengers' potential is needed, starting with linking their activities with the existing types of transport in the surrounding region, forming a support strategy to attract new aviation communities, passengers, and additional services for client groups, bearing in mind that the added value of airports is formed by airlines operating there, strategic cooperation partners and service providers. Without a doubt, it is also essential to study the ultimate goals of tourist destinations, in order to promote the growth of the travel market and ensure its positive impact on the economy.
Infrastructure for a variety multifaceted of commercial activities
The strategic objective of the regional airports is a creation of the favorable and unified conditions for the enterprises and institutions operating there, as well as to proactive procurement of a sufficient infrastructure for the development various of commercial activities. It is also necessary to develop new ways of cooperation in order to actively identify airlines that are ready to join the development of new travel destinations and to expand their market share in the airport. Apart from this, it is necessary to work on the incentive prerequisites for launching new flights.
The imperfection of the transport system can no longer be an obstacle, with the 85 million inhabitants who live in the Baltic Sea region, who can be isolated or cut off from the rest of the European Union, or may face serious travel problems. The power generated by the economy and innovation provides the Baltic Sea Region with opportunities to create a modern, forward-looking transport system that will also contribute to the creation of a socially balanced economic policy.