Touching down at Calgary International Airport’s new terminal is almost like landing in the future.

Tall ceilings with plenty of windows let in natural light and provide prominent views of the surrounding area, greet passengers as they are guided through digital passport kiosks to speed up processing and improve their experience. Electric-powered 10-passenger shuttles connect the existing terminal with the new terminal. At 2 million sq. ft. – the size of 34 football fields – it features 24 new gates, about 50 new shops and services, and plenty of comfortable seating.

There are also futuristic components that aren’t evident at the recently unveiled $1.6-billion international terminal, such as its sustainability aspects of an energy efficient exterior, geothermal heating, rainwater harvesting and co-generation power units.

“We see the airport as a welcome mat for Calgary,” says Cindy Ady, chief executive officer of Tourism Calgary.

CALGARY AT A GLANCE
  • Population(2016): 1,239,220
  • Area: 825.56sq.km<
  • Incorporated as a City: January 1, 1894
  • Current Mayor: Naheed Nenshi

Source: Statistics Canada

The world seems to have taken notice. New economic opportunities landed in Calgary and the surrounding region with the opening of the terminal, which has improved the region’s already stellar ability to move cargo domestically and internationally, and increased the number of international passengers by 7.39 per cent year-over-year during the first nine months of 2017.

Part of the increase in traffic can be attribute to several new routes that have been added to the airport’s offerings, such as non-stop service to Mexico City from Aeromexico, and WestJet flights to Nashville and Belize. New destinations and increased frequencies are key drivers to connecting the world to Calgary and to Alberta. The airport will help to ensure business and tourism continues to grow.

Calgary International Airport’s new terminal continues to add new routes, such as non-stop service to Mexico City. Photo courtesy: Calgary International Airport

Since the terminal opened, the airport has handled more than 21,000 flights, processed about 3.7 million bags and welcomed an estimated 4.8 million international and American passengers.

“The new terminal set us up to have the infrastructure to grow,” says Dean Paddock, director of corporate communications with the Calgary Airport Authority (CAA). “Now we are focused on ensuring that our customers have a memorable experience out of Calgary’s airport, one that is so memorable that they want to return again and again.”

The terminal allows for future economic growth, not just at the airport, but in the City of Calgary and surrounding region. That potential growth comes in several areas, including tourism, which has increased since the new terminal opened and reached record levels in 2017 for the July to September season.

“It’s a great story,” says Tourism Calgary’s Ady. “We were up nine per cent over last year for those months.”

Photo courtesy: Calgary International Airport

Those tourists are coming from all around the world, arriving from Asia via the new Hainan Airlines flight that opened in 2016 and from South America via the new direct flight between Calgary and Mexico City, which is a gateway to South America.

Many people around the world see Canada as a safe destination to visit. The increased number of tourists to the region benefits numerous businesses, including tour operators visiting the area’s mountain destinations, restaurant owners, hotel operators, and shopping centres in and around the city.

Even hotel operators located in downtown Calgary are enjoying an uptick in business due to the increase in tourism, which is a welcome relief for those who took a hit in business travel due to the recent economic downturn.“The perception of Canada’s brand remains very high across the world,” Ady says. “We are really enjoying our time in the sun.”

“Our ability to help companies get their products to their ultimate consumers is enhanced significantly because of the capabilities of our international airport.”
– Deana Haley, vice-president of client services for Calgary Economic Development

The enhancements to the fourth busiest airport in Canada shows it is truly a first-class facility and has also positively impacted cargo movements through Calgary. Calgary International Airport boasts 1.68 million square feet of dedicated cargo space, with direct access to warehouse and logistics facilities, in-ground fuelling and cargo services, including customs. In 2016, the airport moved a record volume of more than 137,000 metric tonnes of cargo, including three-quarters of all air cargo moved in Alberta that year.

“Our ability to help companies get their products to their ultimate consumers is enhanced significantly because of the capabilities of our international airport,” says Deana Haley, vice-president of client services for Calgary Economic Development. “By being home to WestJet Airlines, as well as the regional hub for Air Canada, it definitely positions Calgary as Western Canada’s premier inland port.”

International departures lounge at YYC. Photo courtesy: Calgary International Airport

The airport’s capacity to move massive amounts of cargo both domestically and internationally, coupled with the region’s highway and railway linkages benefits the overall economy and increases diversification.

The logistics, warehouse and distribution sector has always been strong in the Calgary region and is well positioned to continue that growth thanks to the airport’s new capacity.

“The airport is a facility that gives Calgary a competitive advantage and is an asset in our community that is helping to grow and diversify the economy,” says Haley.