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This Vancouver airport CEO is charting a course for a community recovery plan

Under the direction of Tamara Vrooman, Vancouver International Airport (YVR) has spearheaded an ambitious one-year strategic plan for 2021 that outlines its role in the economic recovery of the region.
Tamara Vrooman, President and CEO, Vancouver Airport Authority.

When Tamara Vrooman took over the reins of Vancouver Airport Authority in July 2020, she faced one of the biggest challenges of her career. 

Appointed President and CEO of the organization that operates Vancouver International Airport (YVR) in the midst of a global pandemic - that has disproportionately affected the travel industry - Vrooman was tasked with operating in an unprecedented new environment.

Recognizing that crisis is an opportunity for growth, under the direction of Vrooman, YVR spearheaded an ambitious one-year strategic plan for 2021 that outlines its role in the economic recovery of the region.

“At YVR, we exist for the sole purpose of serving our community and the economy that supports it. Through the pandemic, this means ensuring we remain open to provide a safe and efficient experience for those who need to travel and for the movement of essential goods such as PPE and vaccines,” says Tamara Vrooman, President and CEO, Vancouver Airport Authority.

“At the same time, the historic downturn in passenger volume presents a unique opportunity for YVR to fundamentally re-examine our future as we prepare for the eventual return of passenger traffic. In addition, we have a chance to modify our business strategy to ensure we play a vital role in the economic recovery of our region in service of our community."

YVR fulfills its duty to the community and economy by enabling trade, tourism and the exchange of knowledge. The airport has been internationally recognized as the best airport in North America for 10 years in a row.

Much of its success is due to its comprehensive long-term plans — carefully considered large capital investments designed to generate long-term value, along with passenger forecasts, stakeholder priorities, industry trends and economic outlooks.

However, COVID-19 has forced any future plans to be rejigged with room for growth and flexibility. 

While strategic planning normally encompasses visions that span years, YVR’s one-year plan focuses on the now: how the airport will lay the groundwork in 2021 to set itself up for success, with the ability to test and adjust in anticipation for planning 2022 and beyond.

YVR’s strategic plan is rooted in the understanding that the way we work and travel will be forever changed by COVID-19. It outlines six key areas of focus for how the airport will respond to those changes.

Staying Ahead of COVID

Generally, digital and data-enhanced technologies give airports an opportunity not only to respond to COVID, but to improve the passenger experience and operating efficiency. 

Forays into COVID-testing, data-sharing, and contactless processing have already shown progress, according to the strategy. Timely and targeted data investments will ensure YVR will have the right information to stay ahead of and adapt to the challenges of navigating the pandemic.

Climate: Net Zero by 2030

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) expects emissions from aviation to triple over the next two decades. Airports have an immediate and outsized role in reducing greenhouse gases.

YVR is rising to that challenge by accelerating its goal of eliminating carbon emissions by 20 years. It’s aiming to be net-zero in 2030 versus 2050. The airport continues to reduce its waste and increase efforts on diverting waste from landfills and will focus on reducing direct emissions from its operations by reducing energy use and focusing on renewable fuels.

Gateway to the New Economy

YVR credits its success in part to its role as the “Gateway to Asia Pacific,” building stronger investment, economic, education, family and social ties with Asia. 

As the airport moves forward into a post-pandemic world, its renewed focus will be to become the region’s “Gateway to the New Economy,” strengthening the core of its operations, organization and finances.

Strengthening the Core

YVR is taking advantage of the drop in traffic to optimize organization efficiency in terms of passenger experience, departure punctuality, baggage connections and cargo. 

In addition, YVR is focusing on improving the airport and its infrastructure for safety, efficiency, and sustainability by examining every aspect of its operations, including its asset management program.

Purpose Through People

YVR is developing its workforce to ensure the right team with the right skills and attributes is in place to serve its purpose.

This includes moving quickly to provide value to customers and community by redesigning YVR’s organizational structure, providing a framework to support, develop, and reward talented employees, and fostering a culture where people thrive from hiring to retirement.

Financial Sustainability

With reductions and limitations on travel, YVR has started 2021 with the single largest operating deficit and debt burden in its history. As the airport works to meet its other strategic objectives, it is also focusing on doing so in a way that improves its profitability and financial resiliency.

YVR is also working to identify opportunities to diversify into industries and sections that are outside of aviation and less reliant on passenger traffic. The airport says it will also monitor its corporate performance against key indicators to help ensure it is improving financial efficiency over time.

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