Robert Burns International Airport

Presentation to Scottish Parliament Public Petitions Committee on 1st April 2014

President Jane Brown, Senior Vice President Jim Thomson and Chief Executive Alison Tait presented to Scottish Parliament regarding the renaming of Glasgow Prestwick Airport to Robert Burns International Airport. Details of the presentation given are shown below:

P1506 – renaming Glasgow Prestwick International Airport to Robert Burns International Airport.

Good Morning Ladies & Gentlemen and thank you Mr Convener for allowing us to come along and put our case forward for the renaming of Prestwick Airport.

To give you some background, The Robert Burns World Federation was founded in 1885.

The main objectives of The Robert Burns World Federation Limited are to advance the education of the public about the life, poetry and works of Robert Burns and in furtherance thereof:

(i) To encourage and arrange competitions among the general public, students and/or school children.

(ii) To stimulate the development, teaching and study of Scottish literature, art, music and language.

(iii) To conserve buildings and places associated with Robert Burns and his contemporaries.

(iv) To strengthen the bond of fellowship amongst members of Burns Clubs and kindred societies throughout the world by encouraging Burns Clubs and kindred societies to honour the memory of Robert Burns and his works.

Clubs, Societies, Individuals and Corporate bodies who support the aims and objectives of the Robert Burns World Federation may be admitted as Federation Members. However, as the leading authority on Robert Burns, his life and works, we interact on a daily basis with many people, both members and non-members.

Robert Burns is a global icon and recognised world-wide. He is one of the top literary figures in the history of the planet – comparable with all the greatest literary characters

Culture Minister Fiona Hyslop said: "Robert Burns is Scotland's greatest cultural icon, recognised and celebrated all around the world. His legacy is of incalculable value to Scotland and the country's image abroad.”

However, it is not the sentimental aspect of Burns which is of importance and which brings us here today but rather the business case.

Prestwick Airport is Scotland’s other international airport. Renaming the Airport would immediately identify its geographical location, right in the heart of Burns Country. We see it as a positive step forward, having the International airport almost in sight of Robert Burns’ birth-place. As a gateway to the region this will be seen by, potentially, millions of passengers. It would be a fitting and relevant tribute to the memory of Robert Burns, but, more importantly, renaming the airport could have an impact on the market as it services an area rich in culture, heritage and tourist attractions.

We envisage it would increase the profile of the airport in terms of Burns’ tourism, with an opportunity to improve passenger footfall to the area. This would be of advantage to Ayrshire, Dumfries & Galloway and the wider Scotland. There is an opportunity for the South West of Scotland to capitalise on tourist value – everything from spend on tour guides and ancestry research to golf and hotels, etc. From a marketing point of view, it is possible to capitalise on Burns throughout the airport and potentially increase footfall. Due to security, footfall in airports nowadays, is mainly due to passengers (as opposed to the café-culture footfall which used to happen previously).

In physical terms, Prestwick is Scotland's largest commercial airfield, although in passenger traffic terms it sits in fourth place after Edinburgh Airport, Glasgow International, and Aberdeen Airport. This has the potential to be improved. Passenger traffic peaked at 2.4 million in 2007 following ten years of rapid growth, driven in part by the boom in no-frills airlines, especially from Ryanair which uses the airport as an operating base. We understand there has been a significant reduction in passenger traffic with around 1.1 million passengers passing through the airport in 2013.

RBWF has worked closely with Scottish Government for many years with regards to the promotion of Burns as both organisations realise the value which Burns brings to the Scottish economy.

It is reported that Robert Burns is worth nearly £160M to Scotland’s economy. RBWF continue to encourage overseas visitors to Scotland, with Burns being one of the greatest focus points for those who visit Scotland.

Fiona Hyslop also said:

“The strength of culture is challenging us to think differently, to do things in different ways”.

So, we are doing things differently. We are working in partnership and collaborating with many other organisations nowadays.

RBWF would be delighted to work in partnership with airport management to provide assistance wherever necessary to progress the airport in its future growth. We at RBWF are keen to see the airport used to its full potential as this would have a positive impact on employment in a region of high unemployment, with several areas currently running at above the national average.

Burns was the ultimate cultural activist, challenging the political mores of the day and envisioning a different future. We envisage a different future for the airport.

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