IATA's Regional Vice President, The Americas says addressing aviation infrastructure, taxes and regulations can maximize the nation's potential.

Cartagena airport

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called on the government of Colombia and aviation stakeholders to work together to grow the economic benefits that aviation delivers to the country. 

Speaking at Aviation Day Colombia, organized by IATA and the Latin American and Caribbean Air Transport Association (ALTA), Peter Cerda, IATA’s Regional Vice President, The Americas, said, “Aviation supports over 600,000 jobs and contributes 2.1% to Colombia’s GDP. These are big numbers, but aviation could increase this contribution with a more accommodating environment. For example, in the Middle East region, air transport supports 3.3% of all employment and 4.4% of GDP.”

Cerda identified three key priorities—to develop airport and airspace infrastructure, reduce taxes and charges that raise the cost of air travel, and embrace smarter regulation principles—to help increase aviation’s economic benefits in Colombia.

Under the right conditions, aviation could support more than one million jobs and contribute $17.2 billion to GDP by 2037

“Air travel demand in Colombia is forecast to at least double over the next 20 years, with the potential for up to a fourfold increase in passenger demand,” said Cerda. 

“That means that under the right conditions, aviation could support more than one million jobs and contribute $17.2 billion to GDP by 2037. Now is the time to lay the foundations for that success by creating a more favorable operating and regulatory environment.”

Developing aviation infrastructure is key for the South American nation, with Bogota's congested El Dorado airport handling around 69% of Colombia's traffic. 

Investment in existing infrastructure could increase capacity to 40 million passengers per year, while a third runway and new passenger terminal could see that number reach 70 million.

Reducing taxes and fees would also have economic benefits, as Rafael Nunez International Airport in Cartagena has demonstrated. In 2015, the airport cut its airport fee by more than half, from $92 to $38 and it had an immediate impact as international passengers increased by 26% and arrivals of International visitors increased by 38%.

Colombia would further benefit by incorporating the principles of IATA's Smarter Regulation guidance as part of its aviation regulatory process. 

“Regulations that prevent airlines from responding to market demand have the effect of raising the cost of travel for all. Why not give passengers the choice and bring air travel within reach of more people?” said Cerda.