Ricardo Dueñas
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Airport Investment Integral to Trade, Tourism and Employment

By Gabriela Mastache | Mon, 03/30/2020 - 12:07

Q: How does OMA contribute to the development and performance of the tourism industry?

A: Our objective is to create efficient and high-quality infrastructure that promotes safety. We play a very important role in promoting destinations. Promoting national destinations in international markets is a combined effort between different airport groups, airlines and local and federal governments. We have been active at international events, such as the Routes events, where we meet with the main airline operators to make the business case for Mexican destinations. To this end, airport infrastructure and federal government support are very important.

Q: What is OMA’s view on the tourism industry’s performance in 2019?

A: Fortunately, our international passenger traffic grew close to 9 percent in 2019. OMA averages about 23 million passengers per year, of which 12 percent is international traffic. In 2019, we saw an increase in international arrivals, particularly passengers coming from Canada, especially in seasonal destinations like Mazatlan and Acapulco, which was among the airports with the most growth last year.

Q: How will OMA benefit from the new National Infrastructure Agreement announced by the federal government?

A: We are important contributors to the National Infrastructure Agreement. We are developing our investment plan for the next five years, for which we are contemplating investments of around MX$14 billion (US$550 million). We have also announced an important investment of MX$4.2 billion (US$165.7 million) in the Monterrey airport. In addition, we have inaugurated new terminals in both San Luis Potosi and Chihuahua. In 2018, we also inaugurated a new terminal in Acapulco. We hope to open a new terminal in Reynosa before the end of 2020 and we are starting to work in Tampico and Ciudad Juarez.

It is important to highlight the work we will do at our Monterrey terminal. This city is important geographically and we have the potential to become the most important air hub in the north of the country. The airport finished 2019 with 11 million passengers and the investment we announced will allow us to receive up to 16 million passengers. We will continue to have the capacity to expand our terminal in line with future demand.

Regional destinations in the north also have grown in importance, particularly Culiacan, Juarez, Chihuahua and Mazatlan. We have seen significant growth at all these airports, especially in the business travel segment.

Q: What role do airports play in the economic performance of medium-density cities?

A: They play a key role. An airport is not only for those who travel. It is an important catalyst for development, representing significant economic revenue. An airport means more trade, more tourism and more employment.

OMA itself has almost 1,000 employees and generates indirect jobs. For every direct job generated at an airport, approximately three indirect jobs are created. This is just considering the actual airport facility. When you consider the development a project like this generates for the surrounding communities and the overall impact on a city, then the benefits escalate.

Q: How did NAIM’s cancellation and the construction of the Santa Lucía airport impact OMA’s operations?

A: More than a direct impact, we see an opportunity. Saturation in the center of the country means airports like those in the OMA group can be part of the solution. We can start to redirect traffic using our destinations. We are seeing an increase in alternative routes for all the traffic that does not have to go through Mexico City. In this sense, we are working to position ourselves as the most important airport group in the country.

Q: NAIM promised to make Mexico a logistics and transportation hub. How can the country become a hub with its current airport capabilities?

A: We need to work on strengthening the entire infrastructure network. The vision of the current administration is to decentralize traffic from the center of the country using three airports. We believe we can participate in this decentralization process and attract traffic to our airports. But for this to happen, we need to strengthen our current capabilities, which is exactly what we are doing.

Q: How is OMA working to cater to the new habits of Mexican travelers?

A: Mexico continues to be a country with low aviation penetration. The average Mexican travels around 0.5 times per year, while in the US, the average is 2.5 times per year.

Though there is very low penetration, low-cost airlines have helped by offering flights at more attractive prices. They have also helped move the mindset away from buses and toward airports. In Mexico, low-cost airlines have experienced almost double-digit growth for the past seven years. It is a trend that is going to continue and we are betting on this sector, without neglecting full-service airlines. We are the primary hub for VivaAerobus and our infrastructure plan going forward will consider this new passenger profile that looks for both low cost and good service.

Q: What global airport infrastructure trends is OMA watching and how are you working to implement these at your airports?

A: In the past, airports were developed with just the landing strip in mind. Today, airports are experiences. The journey starts one day before, when you can check-in from your smartphone. At the airport, you can enjoy a good experience in a place that offers all types of services, including food and shopping. This is a major trend in airports. They are no longer a place where passengers simple go to take a flight. Airports need to offer experiences and that is what we are working on.


Grupo Aeroportuario del Centro Norte (OMA) is an airport group that manages and operates 13 airports in Mexico’s central and northern region. In 2019, OMA’s passenger traffic reached 23 million people

Photo by:   MBP
Gabriela Mastache Gabriela Mastache Senior Journalist and Industry Analyst