The Airport as a Catalytic Element of the Regional Development in the Hinterland
The catalytic influence of airports on the regional economic development is well known and increasingly relevant. Concepts, such as: airport region, airport corridor, airport city, airea or aerotropolis have been developed to conceptualize those influences. In this sense, determining the limits of influence of an airport – hinterland – is thus a key aspect to both support the implementation of public policies as well as support airport business development. Notwithstanding, the literature on the topic is relatively scarce and few methods have been developed. Typically, the Hinterland is measured in terms of travel time isochronous normally measured along the transport network or distance isochronous. However, the validity of such method, and practice, raises some doubts. For example, the actual distribution of economic activities and population is ignored as well as the mutual influence of other airports.
The objective of this paper was to assess the validity of the hinterland defined by the Portuguese airport manager – ANA Aeroportos de Portugal. We developed a case study involving the most important mainland portuguese national airports – Lisbon (LIS), Oporto (OPO) and Faro (FAO). ANA defines the hinterland of each airport in terms of a travel time, in a total of 120 minutes, 90 minutes and 60 minutes, respectively. We developed a comprehensive survey to the companies located in the within the hinterland of every airport aiming to understand the existence of any relationship between them and the closest airport. We followed a stratified sample method to determine the size of the survey. We only considered import and export companies with the highest business volumes. Data analysis was performed by SPSS (a statistical analysis tool). We collected a total of 243 surveys.
The results suggest that distance and travel time are indeed relevant factors in the choice of the airport. Yet, others, such as, the airport’s destinations or type of airlines (i.e. low cost companies) also play a relevant role. The main conclusion of the study was that the calculation of an airport’s hinterland based solely on the travel time or distance is potentially misleading. Further research is now needed to calculate their actual influence even including other indicators.