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The World’s Most Connected City?

According to data released by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Covid-19 has caused severe damage to international connectivity, changing the ranking of the world best-connected cities.

London was the most connected city in the world in September 2019. In September 2020, its connectivity plummeted 67%, and its ranking dropped to eighth. Shanghai ranks first among the four best-connected cities in China (Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Chengdu). New York (down to 66% in connectivity), Tokyo (down to 65%), Bangkok (down to 81%), Hong Kong (down to 81%) and Seoul (down to 69%) have all fallen out of the top ten.

IATA's top 10 best-connected cities:

Research shows that cities with many domestic routes now dominate, highlighting the degree of closure of international routes.

Mr Sebastian Mikosz, Senior Vice President for Member and External Relations at IATA, said: "The dramatic shift demonstrates the scale at which the world connectivity has been re-shuffled over the last twelve months. But the important point is that rankings did not shift because of any improvement in connectivity, it was driven by overall market decline. There are no winners, just some players that suffered fewer injuries. In a short period we have undone a century of progress in bringing people together and connecting markets. The message we must take from this study is the urgent need to rebuild the global air transport network."

Air transport is the main engine of the global economy. Under normal circumstances, the aviation industry can provide approximately 88 million jobs and a GDP of 3.5 trillion US dollars. The plummeting demand for international air travel has put more than half of employment and economic value at risk. "The government must be aware that it has a major impact on people's lives and livelihoods. The air transportation industry is deeply affected and has hit at least 46 million jobs. Without effective air transportation network support, it will limit stimulating economic recovery from the pandemic."

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, aviation connectivity had grown globally. In the past 20 years, the number of cities directly connected by air (city-to-city connection) has more than doubled, while the cost of air travel has dropped by about half. Between 2014 and 2019, 10 most connected countries/regions in the world experienced substantial growth. The United States remains the most closely connected country, with a growth rate of 26%. China ranked second, with a 62% increase in connectivity. Among the top 10 countries, the top performers also include India (a rise of 89%) in fourth place and Thailand (an increase of 62%) in ninth place.

Compared to a country’s GDP, if connectivity increases by 10%, labour productivity will increase by 0.07%. The impact on developing countries is even more significant. In countries where connectivity is currently relatively low, investment in air transport capacity will significantly impact productivity and economic success than a similar investment level in a relatively developed country.

Tourism income can be reinvested to become capital assets. Air transport contributes to greater employment opportunities and broader economic benefits through tourism catalytic effect, especially in some small island countries.

Therefore, IATA 76th Annual General Meeting (AGM) called on governments to adopt virus testing to reopen borders safely. "Systematic detection of passengers is a straightforward solution to rebuild connectivity. Virus detection technology is available, and implementation guidelines have been formulated. Now, we must take action before the damage to the global air transportation network cannot be repaired." Mr Mikos emphasized.


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