Банкеръ Weekly



Not only the development of the Varna Airport, but of the region around it is important to us because activities, connected with aviation, are located there, said Paul Tipple, Head of the Strategies and Development Department of Wiggins Group, the UK company that is interested in getting a concession on the airport. It is the strategy for the development of the region which distinguishes the company from the other candidate concessionares, Mr. Tipple pointed out. Wiggins Group presently has six airports in Europe and one in the US. Most of them are not much larger than the Varna Airport and we are experienced in the management of such facilities, the British manager said.If Wiggins Group is granted a concession on the Varna Airport, the company will invest in it EUR90MN within five-six years. Between EUR40 - 50MN will be spent on the construction of a new passenger terminal, and the balance will go for improving the airport's other facilities in compliance with European standards. The most important thing, however, is not the amount of investments, but the way in which they'll be utilized, the British manager specified.However, both Wiggins Group and the other candidate concessionaires will have to wait until the Civil Aviation Act is amended to allow the holding of a tender.As far as I can gather, this will facilitate the involvement of foreign capital in the airport's development. Of course, it will take some time to draft the amendments and approve them in Parliament, but we are ready to wait, Mr. Tipple said. However, he did not specify how many new working postions will be opened within six years, but pointed out that the potential of the currently employed 700-800 people is not used well.The construction of a new passenger terminal will begin in 2004. The British businessman said that introduction of new equipment for handling passangers and luggage was necessary. The existing terminal and the runway are to be improved in compliance with international standards, Mr. Tipple added.Currently, there is only one regular flight from the Varna Airport to Sofia. The others are charter flights, carrying mainly German vacationers. From our conversations with various airlines we understood that a major problem is the quality of the existing infrastructure at the Varna Airport. As the air carriers are responibile for their passengers' security, they won't land on a runway if they are not content with the level of its safety. The representative of Wiggins Group added that according to airlines, Varna is a very attractive city, both as a place for vacation and for international conferences.

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