As the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak continues to spread, I wanted to provide an update on the situation at YVR. I’d first like to start by acknowledging this outbreak is a tragic situation. Our thoughts are with everyone affected and I can assure you that we are doing everything we can to help.
We have received many questions in recent weeks asking what impact COVID-19 is having on YVR, what information we can share and what our role is in areas such as health screening measures, cleaning procedures, restricting flights from overseas and more. The short answer to many of these questions is that we are working closely with our partners to address the situation. It has been a real team effort and I am very grateful to the many organizations involved—PHAC, BC CDC, CBSA, CATSA, US CBP, airline partners, airport tenants and others—for all their hard work. Together, we have helped implement new procedures, share crucial information, assist in repatriation efforts and inform the public.
While we are experts in moving people and bags, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) are experts in public health and we are taking our lead on the COVID-19 response from them. PHAC has implemented a number of new measures at Canada’s large airports to detect and combat the spread of COVID-19 and you can learn more about the measures underway at YVR here. As the airport operator, we have also implemented a number of precautions such as increased cleaning of key areas like handrails, washrooms and other high-touch surfaces throughout the terminal.
It’s no secret that COVID-19 has created economic uncertainty in the aviation industry. At YVR, for instance, we saw Mainland China passenger traffic decline 50 per cent in February and we expect a similar amount for March. For 2020, our current planning accounts for a 3 to 5 per cent decrease in passengers from last year’s record of 26.4 million. And we are also planning for a 5 to 10 per cent decline in our revenue this year, as fewer passengers mean less landing fees and less spending at the airport.
However, YVR is in good hands. We learned a great deal from previous challenges such as the Global Financial Crisis in 2008 – 2009 and SARS in 2002 – 2003. We look for efficiencies wherever possible and we take an incremental approach to growth, making sure to not overbuild. For instance, in June we will open our new international terminal expansion, which includes 4 new terminal gates and 4 bussing holdrooms that can be used as needed. It’s essentially an 8-gate expansion, but it’s half the size, which means savings on heating, power, cleaning and more.
Our flexible approach to growth pairs well with our long-term perspective. As a community-based airport, we plan decades out, ensuring we benefit the region. The result is that we account for challenging periods, like the one we are currently in, while continuing to build sustainably. And we support this approach through a strong financial foundation, which includes a diverse revenue stream, a conservative approach to debt and a AA credit rating.
All the while, we are continuing on our mission to connect B.C. proudly to the world. We serve diverse markets and work closely with our airline partners to support existing routes and find new key connections as well. Just recently, we shared the good news that Turkish Airlines will start its new service to YVR in June. This is a big win for us, marking our first connection to one of the world’s major hubs.
So, while we continue to address COVID-19 as well as other issues, I believe it’s important we do not lose sight of the long-term nature of YVR. We have come a long way, from a one-runway airport serving just 1,000 passengers in 1931 to a global hub with over 26 million passengers in 2019. Over the last decade, we have seen incredible growth, with passenger traffic up 60 per cent. And we are continuing to improve, with planned expansions moving ahead. Meanwhile, we will continue to work closely with our partners to ensure we operate a safe and secure airport—our top priority.
I am certain better times are ahead and I look forward to sharing good news in the weeks and months to come.