Hosting Routes Europe 2018 could finally secure long-haul service for Bilbao

Bilbao will host Routes Europe 2018. As the face of the Basque Country, Bilbao is home to world renowned museums, beautiful restaurants and quaint markets. Bilbao is the largest city in the region, and the most cosmopolitan.

It has been growing and evolving immensely since the 1970s. It is one of the main cultural and economic hubs in northern Spain, gaining recognition as an architectural point of reference. This accolade is thanks to the Guggenheim Museum, designed by Frank Gehry and widely considered the symbol of the city.

The Biscay capital is also home to the third busiest metro system in Spain. The system was designed by Sir Norman Foster, and has been in operation since 1995. In 2013, more than 87 million people used the metro system – only Madrid and Barcelona’s systems were busier – yet ridership is expected to reach 100 million people a year when once the network is completed.

Between 2004 and 2014, visitor numbers for Bilbao increased by 34.6 percent, totalling 2,550,614 visitors. Fifty percent of those who visit Basque Country intend on revisiting, and with some of the sights on offer in Bilbao it is clear to see why.

Bilbao Airport is the major airport for Basque Country in terms of passenger volume. The 2015 calendar year saw the airport serve 4.27 million passengers – a year-on-year increase of 6.5 percent. Bilbao Airport is also off to a strong start in 2016. Double-digit growth has been recorded in each of the first three months of the year: 260,244 passengers were handled in January which is an increase of 13 percent. February saw 281,768 passengers using the Basque airport, 10.6 percent more than the year before and March’s passenger figures went up by 13 percent to 359,845.

Forty destinations are served from Bilbao Airport within Europe. These connections are made through a mixture of low-cost, legacy and regional carriers. The number one carrier at the airport is Spanish low-cost carrier Vueling, with Barcelona being the busiest route.

Hosting Routes Europe will give Bilbao, and the Basque Country in general, the opportunity to showcase what they have to offer. It can be identified that there is ample opportunity to bring long-haul services to northern Spain, with a high number of indirect passengers flying onto services as far afield as the United States, Mexico and Japan. The most in demand is flying to New York, which more than 25,000 people flew indirectly in 2014.

Bilbao is a perfect host for Routes Europe 2018 due the city’s strategic location. Major cities in Europe can be reached from Bilbao in under three hours – it takes around two and a half hours to reach Prague, one hour and fifty minutes to get to London and flight time to Paris from Bilbao is just an hour and a half. Bilbao is an ideal port of entry to other parts of the northern Iberian Peninsula and to the Southwest of France.

Laura Hamill

Originally from Belfast, Laura graduated from De Montfort University, Leicester with a BA Hons English and Journalism degree in 2014. She has…