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Thunder Bay Airport traffic tied to gold prices, aging population

New research looks at three contributors to traffic growth
Thunder Bay International Airport

THUNDER BAY -- A study released by the Northern Policy Institute (NPI) shows a correlation between the price of gold and passenger volume at Thunder Bay Airport.

The report's release is on the heels of an announcement last week that the airport established a record high for passenger traffic in 2017, when 845,000 people travelled through the terminal.

Curtis McKnight, a research analyst at the NPI, compared changes in gold prices with fluctuations in passenger volume, and determined that high international gold prices and a growing northern Ontario gold mining sector tend to increase airport traffic.

Gold prices trended upward throughout 2017.

McKnight's report noted that "A possible explanation is that as gold prices rise, there are more employment opportunities in the mining sector throughout Thunder Bay, prompting workers to travel from different areas."

The study also examined the impact that demographic changes and post-secondary enrollment have on the airport.

It concluded that as Thunder Bay's population ages, total air traffic goes up.

McKnight explained that "for the Thunder Bay population ages 40 to 69, there appears to be a positive relationship with total air traffic since 1996. People in this demographic have generally developed careers. Therefore, increased work travel opportunities and more disposable income...would be positively correlated with air traffic."

The study identified a link, as well, between airport volume and the growth in post-secondary enrollment by students from out of town.

The NPI has presented the findings to the airport's board of directors, saying the study could help the board plan for future growth.

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