Airport launches annual business visitor survey

Manufacturing and technology, media and telecoms are the leading sectors in attracting business travellers to Manchester and the North West, according to research from Deloitte and Manchester Airport.

The study, based on 280 interviews, is the first of its kind to look at which industries drive business travel into the airport and the North West. Visitors from outside the UK were interviewed in departure lounges at the end of business trips and were asked their final destination. The study was carried out during June and July 2012.

Deloitte and Manchester Airport plan to carry out the business passenger research on a twice-yearly basis to track significant changes in the data.

Researchers found that 22% of travellers were visiting companies in the manufacturing sector, with 16% in TMT. Other leading sectors among business visitors were energy and resources and consumer business, both at 12%.

However, perhaps surprisingly, among the areas with fewer visitors in the study sample were financial services, infrastructure and capital programmes and healthcare and life sciences.

Other highlights of the research findings include:

  • 62% of those interviewed were visiting businesses in the North West, with Yorkshire accounting for 20%
  • 21% of those flying into Manchester Airport were visiting from the US
  • Germany, 17%, and Ireland, 10%, were the next most popular countries of origin
  • 35% of those interviewed said they were visiting the UK for three to five days, with 24% flying in for two days, 15% were visiting for a week

As well as confirming the strength of the North West's manufacturing industry, the joint study also supports the view that the region has a rapidly-developing TMT sector, exemplified by growth clusters including MediaCityUK in Salford Quays, the Sharp Project in Manchester and Liverpool's gaming community.

Jo Ahmed, director of global employer services at Deloitte in the North West, led the research. She said: "This is the first study of its kind carried out at Manchester Airport and it is fascinating in what it tells us about business visitors to the North West.

"As well as confirming what we knew about the strength of the North West's manufacturing sector, it also backs up the evidence suggesting that the region is nurturing an increasingly significant reputation in TMT. These are key areas to be leading the field in as they provide well-paid jobs and high levels of gross value-added.

"Perhaps unsurprisingly, many more visitors are from 'old world' economies like the US and Germany than from emerging powerhouses like China, Russia and India. It demonstrates that we must continue to press the case for key transport links between the North West and those economies that will fuel world growth in the next 20 years.

"We are intrigued to see how the data will develop as we continue to carry out the surveys on a regular basis as part of our relationship with Manchester Airport."

The research points to the US, Germany and Ireland as key trading partners, with relatively few business visitors from the BRIC nations of Brazil, Russia, India and China. This is broadly in line with Civil Aviation Authority passenger survey data, which is collected on a continuous basis.

Roger Westerbeek, Manchester Airport's head of customer relationship management, said: "With passenger numbers continuing to grow and the arrival of Airport City in 2030, it is vital that we understand the needs of our outbound and inbound business travellers.

"Airport City will attract global firms to the area, allowing us to widen our route network to the FarEast and other new economies. Understanding our customers through studies of this nature then allows us to plan our products and services for the future.

"I look forward to working with Deloitte to see the results of the next survey and understand how we will apply the data to benefit passengers."

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