This is according to a new report published today (Tuesday 11 September).
Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL) commissioned economic development consultants, ekosgen, in March this year to carry out the study.
The study team spent several weeks carrying out the research, including an online survey and interviewing principal stakeholders and businesses.
The project quantified direct and supply chain impacts of Inverness Airport including employment and expenditure of the operator and other businesses associated with the facility.
Around two thirds (554) of the 748 FTEs supported are direct posts linked to the airport. Most of them are full time and well-paid.
The study found that enabling opportunities to sell to wider UK and international markets and increasing the ability of firms to recruit were amongst the positive business impacts of the current air service.
Businesses said that a top future priority should be increasing the frequency of flights to Heathrow to twice daily to match the Gatwick route.
Expressed preferences for new routes were direct links to European hubs in Germany, France, Italy or Spain, or direct routes to Scandinavia.
Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity Michael Matheson said:
“Inverness Airport is a key driver of economic growth in the Highlands. Connections to world hubs like Heathrow and Amsterdam provide easy access to markets for Scottish business, as well as convenient one-stop transfers for tourists from around the world.
“The economic benefits of frequent flights on the right routes is clear. HIAL is ambitious to grow the airport further and we will do all we can to help the Inverness team realise their ambitions.”
Carroll Buxton, HIE director of regional development, said:
“This study evidences that Inverness Airport’s impressive growth over recent years has brought real benefits for the regional economy. Improved connectivity has enabled regional firms to expand and has been crucial in helping attract inward investment, as well as contributing to the ongoing success of the tourism sector.
“The feedback collated in this study is extremely useful in quantifying the impacts of this growth. The information gathered will be used to help inform future strategy and support route development.”
Inverness Airport general manager Graeme Bell, said:
“These impressive figures further highlight the important role that Inverness Airport plays in supporting the Highland economy to prosper. Connectivity remains key to the success, and for HIAL, it is at the forefront of everything we do. With that in mind it is vital that we continue to invest in the services and routes and as this report demonstrates its good value for money.
“Working with stakeholders, we are committed to supporting the essential socio-economic role of aviation in Scotland and the Highlands through the development of our airport facilities and routes. We have recently witnessed significant improvements both in business and tourism traffic, with new and additional flights to some of Europe’s busiest transport hubs, meaning the region is better connected by air than ever before. Passenger numbers continue to grow, year on year, and this impact study will be a key pillar for attracting new routes and further investment to the airport.”
Owned by HIAL, Inverness is the principal airport in the Highlands and Islands, with the catchment area covering the entirety of Highland and Moray Council areas. It provides vital business links to international markets as well as being a key entry-point for tourists and inward investors.
The fourth busiest airport in Scotland, it facilitates daily flights to destinations such as London, Manchester, Bristol and Amsterdam.
Passenger numbers have risen over the past decade to a record 875,000 in 2017. This 30% increase was greater than both Glasgow (22%) and Aberdeen (6% decrease).