Plane Important: Saskatchewan’s airports make a big impact

Skyxe Saskatoon Airport
Skyxe Saskatoon Airport

As of October 1st, 2022 the Federal Government lifted the remaining national travel restrictions, including removing the requirement for incoming travellers to show proof of vaccination, undergo testing or be bound to quarantine mandates. While restrictions for domestic travel were eased in the summer, this most recent announcement is welcome news to not only those who have either avoided travel altogether during the COVID-19 pandemic or revised their plans according to the restrictions in place at any particular time, but also for those working in industries reliant on travel and tourism.

In 2019, 1.49 million air travellers passed through the Saskatoon John G. Diefenbaker International Airport (also known as Skyxe Saskatoon Airport). CJ Dushinski, vice president of business development and service quality with Skyxe, estimates 895,000 travellers by the end of 2022—a 60 per cent recovery from pre-pandemic numbers.

“We hope to achieve 100 per cent recovery by the end of 2023 or early 2024,” says Dushinski. This projection echoes that of Airports Council International, which recently reported steady global recovery rates as more countries ease travel restrictions and open their markets. The organization also estimates the industry will reach 2019 levels by 2024.

Similar optimism is projected for the Regina International Airport (YQR). In 2019, the airport welcomed 1,168,390 passengers, and the forecasted total number of passengers for 2022 is 768,918.

Airports are vital institutions in an economy. They provide rapid connection to other parts of the world, facilitating international trade and tourism and feeding economic growth in the local community. According to the Canadian Airports Council (CAC), our country’s airports directly contribute $19 billion to the national gross domestic product (GDP). Air services are essential to attracting conventions, trade shows, research and development facilities, manufacturing and corporate headquarters to a community.

Pre-pandemic, Saskatchewan welcomed more than 13.6 million visitors annually and generated $2.37 billion in travel expenditures. The majority of the province’s tourism sector—95 per cent—is small or medium-sized businesses independently owned or operated. Airports assist by bringing people to our communities to consume these tourism services.

The 2015 report, Economic Impact of the Regina International Airport, identified YQR as a significant employer in the city, contributing over 1,000 jobs for residents. In this pre-pandemic time, it also generated more than $800 million yearly in local economic activity. With the much-anticipated removal of travel restrictions by the federal government, this level of pre-pandemic economic impact is possible once again.

Depending on the season, the Saskatoon Airport Authority employs between 30 and 40 people and supports over 8,000 people in the larger airport community. Referring to the airport’s 2019 economic impact study, Dushinski says, “[In 2019], YXE created a total of 8,373 fulltime FTEs, bringing with it an annual labour income of $310.1 million, $937.2 million in other expenditures, and a total economic output of $1,247.3 million for the Saskatoon Region. [That same year], the Saskatoon airport generated employment of 10,300 FTEs and $1.5 billion in economic activity in the province.”

With the latest travel measures removed, Dushinski says, “The future looks bright. We were very happy to receive notice of the termination of all remaining travel restrictions on October 1st, and look forward to a busy winter travel period.”

NOTE: While Canada’s travel measures are lifted, air passengers should always check for COVID-19 restrictions or procedures in their destination country.

Skyxe Total Air Passengers
2019 – 1.49 million
2020 – 462,580
2021 – 439,927
2022 – estimated 895,000

YQR Total Air Passengers
2019 – 1.17 million
2020 – 370,364
2021 – 355,490
2022 – estimated 768,918

Impact of Airports on Our Local Economies
2019 – YQR generated $800 million in local economic activity
2019 – YXE generated $1.2 billion in local economic activity