Last year, the Andorran Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCIS) actively lobbied the project for building an international airport in the Principality and even made an official presentation of this project with the participation of NAVBLUE experts (100% subsidiary of Airbus), which worked to “fit” the airport into the local landscape. This airport would help to solve the rapidly growing problem related to logistics – year by year, it becomes more and more difficult to enter and leave Andorra, and kilometers long traffic jams line up at the borders on weekends and during the high ski season.
Recently, however, in the local media, more and more politicians have been saying that this project is less relevant than launching commercial flights at a nearby airport in Spanish territory – Andorra-la Seu. Such conversations have been going on for many years, and the airport continues to work exclusively to service a few private flights.
Many experts fear that if this airport is launched, traffic jams on the border between Andorra and Spain will provoke a collapse, which would jeopardize Andorra’s transport security, and tourists will prefer to avoid visiting Andorra.
We asked the opinion of Francesc Camp, former Minister of Tourism of Andorra and current consul of Canillo (the parish where it was proposed to build the international airport of Andorra):
“Indeed, there was a project to build an airport in Port d’Envalira (mountain pass), a full-fledged big international airport. Andorra is not Barcelona or an European metropolis. I do not think that a large number of international tourists will fly here, and the number of local residents traveling outside of Andorra is not so large. I don’t think that a big international airport is what our country currently needs.
The Andorra Airport project is quite expensive. I have heard that there were potential investors who had shown interest. However, there is a big difference between showing an interest and real investment.
Will the project be cost-effective, given that we are talking about a high-altitude airport, which can often be closed due to bad weather conditions? We don’t know that. Obviously, the airport would be especially in demand by tourists from distant countries during the high ski season, which means in winter, when weather conditions in Andorra are commonly difficult. If the airport has to be closed often due to bad weather, there will be problems with its profitability. And this is not to mention that the airport is not only a runway, but also an infrastructure that will have an impact on the environment, an issue that remains to be explored.
We need to act gradually, step by step, and in my opinion, at the moment, the priority project is the launch of commercial flights at the Andorra-la Seu airport. Yes, it is true that this question has been discussed for many years, but the decision depends not only on the government of Andorra but also on the government of Spain, the Generalitat of Catalonia and the local authorities of the city of la Seu d’Urgell. As you know, we are talking about installing a GPS system (it is necessary to ensure the safety of takeoff and landing). Once this system is installed, we will be able to commercialize this airport. I note that this will be the only airport in Spain that will have a GPS system – and this is the main difficulty.
Andorra-la Seu Airport is capable of servicing 50-seater airplanes. We are looking for airlines interested to offer both charter and regular flights. Everything has its time. We need to start with small things. If the Andorra-la Seu airport does not cope with passenger service, we will look for other alternatives. In other words, the Andorra-la Seu airport will give us a clear picture of how many tourists are interested in our destination, and how many flights will be made.
I hope that this year the airport will be able to start fully operating, since the authorizations are already agreed by the parties.
I would like to draw your attention to the fact that, aside from the topic of the airport, we will continue to develop mountain and cultural tourism. In particular, we want to use the Palau de Gel (skating rink in Canillo) more often to organize cultural events.
Our main natural attractions are part of the Grandvalira ski resort and the Vall d’Incles Valley. One of the plans that stand before me as the new consul of Canillo is to loop a road around Canillo and make a single active recreation route accessible for the whole family, regardless of the level of physical activity. Therefore, we can promote tourism not only in winter but also in summer.
We want to become an ideal place for training in the open air for both professional athletes and sports lovers, without competing with other parishes that successfully hold summer competitions: ultra-trails, bicycle races, the world mountain bike championship, etc.”