The boss of airline Emirates says North East businesses have a unique opportunity to access some of the world’s most promising new markets.
Emirates UK and Ireland vice president Laurie Berryman said markets serviced by Emirates such as India, China and Indonesia pose “fantastic potential” for exporters from the region.
Speaking to The Journal, Mr Berryman said: “In parts of the world like Indonesia, Taiwan and Vietnam, where economies are strengthening, they want to meet businesses in a face-to-face situation. Sometimes a video conference doesn’t cut it and you need to get out their to shake hands.”
Speaking in the midst of the usually busy summer season, the airline boss said he was hopeful that passenger numbers will pick up again following the impact of this year’s football World Cup.
Mr Berryman said the firm had achieved 11% passenger growth so far in 2014, but the timing of this year’s tournament in Brazil had caused people to put off their holidays until later in the year.
The airline, which operates a daily service to Dubai from Newcastle International Airport with its Boeing 777 aircraft, flew 121,000 passengers in the first half of this year.
Mr Berryman said: “It’s a different kind of year this year. Everyone seems to have moved their holidays back a little bit. July was a good month for us, but August is going to be even better.
“People didn’t go away in June because they wanted to catch all of the World Cup action, but now they’re starting to take holidays and we’re beginning to see the benefit of that. We’re also at the beginning of a very important time for the North East - when thousands of overseas students return to the region for the new academic year.
“We bring in thousands of Chinese, Indian and Malaysian students who study in the region - and of course contribute to the economy here.”
The £150m Emirates Boeing 777, which flys in and out of Newcastle every day, seats 428 and accommodates both business and leisure travellers.
Mr Berryman added: “We’re seeing more and more people choosing Dubai as a holiday destination these days. Consumers are seeing it as an alternative to Turkey or Cyprus, and even Spain. People realise you can get very good value for money there. I think North Easterners are becoming more adventurous in their holiday choices. Further afield we’re seeing growth in our routes to Australia and Thailand - where people now realise you can get quality hotels and service at a low cost.
“We’re also seeing lots of Australians coming to the North East as holidaymakers, which is encouraging. Emirates as a whole has grown beyond our Dubai hub and we’re now in places like Taipei.”
In 2013 Mr Berryman said substantial growth in passengers on its Dubai route, since its introduction in 2007, could lead to double daily flights from Newcastle.
The airline chief said there was no date for a daily flight in the pipeline, and instead Emirates would concentrate on bringing the current flight to capacity.
Marketing activity such as Emirates’ sponsorship of Durham Cricket Club’s 20Twenty team until 2015, and advertising across the Tyne & Wear Metro system has helped to get the airline’s name out there among northern travellers.
Mr Berryman said: “We came here seven years ago and saw a gap in the market. From day one, people in the North East took to the service - despite the incoming recession.
“We’ve built our brand on the service. For example travellers get over 1,000 entertainment channels in cabin, and we’ll even be showing live premiership football games in the air from September. Even our economy meal is five courses.”