Thursday, 2 February 2017

SLOVENIA: Maribor Airport To Open Doors Soon

Despite a 2015 infrastructure overhaul worth EUR 17m, the long hoped for rebirth of the country's second largest airport in Maribor failed to occur in 2016.

The operator, Aerodrom Maribor, which is in the process of getting a new owner, even recorded a halving of passenger figures, but freight transport has grown.

Aerodrom Maribor has failed to secure a regular route for the state-owned airport, but CEO Ladimir Brolih remains confident that things will improve. He told the STA that ties had been forged this year with a number of important carriers that had recognised the airport's potential.

The operator of Edvard Rusjan Airport, which got a new terminal in 2012 and has also had its old terminal renovated, has already seen the first results of its promotion campaign for the region.

Brolih said that coordination of the tourism interests of the region was not the company's primary task, but the company was aware that the airport cannot prosper without a joint effort of the local tourism firms.

He reiterated that it would be easier to lay down future development plans once a long-term agreement is reached as regards the relationship with the state, which has granted the operator a temporary as opposed to a long-term licence for the airport's infrastructure.

Brolih argued that the current situation was making it harder to negotiate with carriers and other potential partners.

Aerodrom Maribor expects total passenger number to rise to around 11,000 by the end of the year, which means a more than 50% drop compared to 2015. In its heyday in the early 1990s, the annual passenger figures at the airport stood at around 85,000.

Brolih attributed this year's slump to the refugee crisis, terrorist threats, and the failure to restore the regular route to London and start scheduled flights to Düsseldorf as planned.

The data for freight transport is more encouraging, with 230 tonnes expected by the end of the year, which would be a 30% improvement on 2015.

The CEO announced Aerodrom Maribor would apply to the call for a long-term operating licence expected in December, while a contribution to the development of the airport is also expected from the new owner.

Aerodrom Maribor has been owned since late 2014 by Delavska hranilnica, a union-controlled savings bank, which announced in June this year it had found a buyer but has still not disclosed the name.

While reports have been indicating that Chinese capital might be involved, Mayor of Maribor Andrej Fištravec spoke of an international consortium which has already made a down payment. The mayor expects the deal could be concluded before the end of the year.

"As far as I know, the investor has a much wider approach in mind than only the airport," he told the STA, hinting at potential additional logistic and other services.