Phil's Travels - Aberdeen, Scotland (0215)
Phil's Travels - Aberdeen, Scotland (Feb 2015)
Immediately after landing at Heathrow T5 from Brussels, we transferred to the departures area for a flight to Aberdeen. Who knows if it is because an oil man expects, but the flights there and back were on swanky new A321s, compared to tired and worn B737s to Brussels (no harm in Eurocrats knowing their place after all).
I did not get to visit the heart of the Granite City, but I did get a good feel for the Energy Capital of Europe. Our meetings were held at a hotel close to Aberdeen International Airport (as a drive to the city centre can take over 1.5 hours during the day) and we had some excellent views from the upper levels of the scale of the surrounding development activity - more hotels, more office space and sheds as far as the eye can see.
The weather was cold, damp, Scottish and very in keeping with my impression of the grey Granite City. However, this did not stop the world's busiest civilian heliport from throwing a constant flow of choppers into the darkened sky. What a ride it must be to the rigs in the North Atlantic.
The airport itself is small, but perfectly formed and provides services to a good number of destinations across Europe. On a Friday night though, it does get very congested and my 1.5 hours target from desk to plane was sorely tested.
Aberdeen is a commercial centre with little to no leisure demand for hotels. This was reflected in the lack of Aberdeen-themed fridge magnets at the airport for my kids and the fact that the hotel was desperate to sell us a Valentine's Weekend package (very few takers apparently).
During our visit, the feedback was that the recent collapse in oil prices has yet to have an effect on development, visitor numbers and hotel demand to Aberdeen. By contrast, the hotel market in London experienced a slow month in January, perhaps as a reflection of the declining value of the euro. The full effect of all these pricing changes will no doubt become more clear as the year unfolds.
Finally, did you know that Aberdeen has the highest concentration of scientists in Europe? And that Aberdeen was the centre of British envelope production in the late 19th century? CERN may have lots of boffins too and they may well have discovered the answer to everything in the Higgs Bosun, but did you know that Aberdeen was the place where the first self-sealing envelope was developed. It makes a Brit glow with pride to think of our scientists being put to practical use rather than spinning atoms round a giant donut.