Cardiff Airport's £500,000 'welcoming' revamp

Coastal art to be used in Cardiff Airport The artwork to go on show at Cardiff Airport will promote Wales' landscapes and culture

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Cardiff Airport is to undergo a £500,000 revamp to improve the first impression passengers get of Wales.

Art and multimedia installations will be used to promote Welsh culture, heritage and businesses.

It is the first investment since the Welsh government bought the airport for £52m last month.

Meanwhile, Robin Tudor of Liverpool John Lennon Airport, said Cardiff faced a challenging time with competition from across Europe to attract airlines.

In recent years, Cardiff Airport has faced problems with falling passengers numbers - from a peak of two million in 2007 to less than one million - along with competition from its more successful neighbour, Bristol Airport.

A poster of a Welsh beach to be used at Cardiff airport The art and multimedia installations will be changed regularly at the airport

It was also hit by the withdrawal of flights by budget airline bmibaby in 2011.

The Welsh government recently took over the airport with the aim of turning its fortunes around and to attract more airlines.

This first investment announcement - agreed before the deal to buy the airport - will see work carried out inside the terminal, in areas used by members of the public and passengers entering Wales.

Art and multimedia installations from Welsh-based artists will be used to welcome travellers. They will be updated regularly to ensure the displays remain fresh.

Edwina Hart, Economy Minister, said the three-year project was just a small part of wider work to improve the airport.

"First impressions are important," she said.

Analysis

First Minister Carwyn Jones has used the example of Liverpool John Lennon Airport to show that it is possible for airports to turn themselves around.

The truth is that Liverpool carved a niche for itself by getting in early with the new budget carriers and that option isn't available for Cardiff as Easyjet and Ryanair are so well established at Bristol.

But there may be lessons in how Liverpool has tried to harness that sense of loyalty from the local community who don't want to travel to Manchester unless they have to.

On one level Cardiff could go one further as unlike Liverpool, it is now actually owned by the local community as well.

But loyalty only goes so far, and it needs to have the right destinations at the right prices before it comes into play.

"Cardiff Airport is a major gateway into Wales for air passengers and this new project will showcase a uniquely Welsh approach to business, culture, the arts, tourism and events."

However, the Welsh government's priority remains attracting new routes to Cardiff Airport.

But, according to Robin Tudor, that could be challenging.

As head of public relations at Liverpool John Lennon Airport, he witnessed its "phenomenal" growth from an airport with just half a million passengers flying to just three destinations in the 1990s to one of the most successful regional airports in the UK.

He told BBC Wales the airport's transformation in the decade from 1997 came because it found a niche in the market with low cost airlines and was able to offer passengers something different from its nearby competitor, the much bigger Manchester Airport.

Mr Tudor said that Cardiff too needed to attract different airlines and routes from its rival Bristol - but it faced competition from across the UK and Europe.

"I think it's going to be a very challenging time for them, I have to say, knowing what we face with competition to attract airlines, to attract new operators," he said.

"We have made inroads with a new airline called Norwegian flying out of here but that's the first new airline we have seen out of here for a long time.

Cardiff airport Cardiff Airport is aiming to attract different airlines from its nearby rival Bristol Airport

"To get growth at a time when the economy is still flat-lining I think would be quite a challenge.

"And knowing how successful Bristol is and the fact that Bristol has pretty much all the key low-cost airlines already well established there, to convince other operators to move into Cardiff will be a challenge."

In its favour, he added was the fact that the Welsh government could perhaps look at varying air passenger duty.

He also said Cardiff should try to improve consumer confidence to build loyalty among Welsh travellers.

"It's about nurturing local support and sense of loyalty," he added.

"If there's very little difference between two airports it can come down to loyalty."

Meanwhile, Cardiff airport has announced four non-executive directors to its board.

They are businessman Philip Ashman, accountant Geraint Davies, Margaret Llewellyn, director of Finance Wales and Andrew Sargent, whose 30 years industry experience includes the airport sector.

The directors will work with the chairman, Lord Rowe-Beddoe, chief executive Jon Horne and other airport directors.

First Minister Carwyn Jones has said the airport will be run "on a commercial basis" rather than being operated by the Welsh government.

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