Prof. Dr. Rainer Schwarz: Airports are the marketplaces of the modern age

It all started with bartering: people on all continents realised early on that it was most convenient to meet in one place at a given time in order to exchange goods. That was the birth hour of logistics: travelling and transporting goods from one location to another in order to trade them. Already thousands of years ago, enormous distances were being covered for the purpose of exchanging goods.

As a result of such supra-regional trade, merchandise transshipment points, now­­adays referred to as “hubs”, came into being in strategically favourable locations. Traders met there to exchange goods among themselves as well as with the local population. Since those marketplaces were always well-fortified and, thus, well-protected localities, where trade and social life could progress peaceably, more and more people settled in and around them. The pull of those places would grow ever stronger. Housing had to be created, streets built, clothes made, and food provided for an increasing number of people. New trades and crafts sprung up, and a growing number of people earned their living by trading goods. In this process, originally small settlements became heavily frequented marketplaces, which finally grew into towns and often large cities. New York, Tokyo, Berlin, London – the metropolises of our time were born in that way.


Just like their predecessors, the early hominid and medieval marketplaces, those big cities exert a strong pull on their surroundings. That too is a logical consequence of our history: when goods were exchanged, then transported to central marketplaces, that was the birth hour of the supply chain and of just-in-time deliveries. In view of poor, unsafe ship passages and relatively small ship volumes, people in those days were faced with great challenges.
Not to mention a statutory uninterrupted cold chain, as it exists nowadays. Thanks to ingenuity, such problems have been resolved in the meantime. Now and then, the fundamental concern was the same: how to transport people and goods from point A to point B as fast and as inexpensively as possible. That is where air freight plays an ever bigger and more important role. In post-war Germany, city centres saw their first “shopping paradises” such as Karstadt, Hertie and Horten, where people could purchase all of their daily necessities.

Recent decades have seen American-style shopping centres establish themselves in the centres and at the gates of cities. A diverse range of merchandise, on-site parking, and good connections to the traffic routes are the key success factors of those shopping centres. Shopping nowadays is not merely about acquiring goods – it is an adventure trip with entertainment value.


In their early days, train stations and airports tried to shorten travellers’ waits with modest gastronomy and few shopping facilities. However, the economic potential was by far not exhausted, in part out of consideration for the urban retail industry. But the birth of large shopping centres led to a change in thinking. Meanwhile, stations and airports offer much more than tickets and sandwiches. In the Berlin main station, which was opened in 2006, travellers and Berliners enjoy an abundance of quality restaurants, clothes and retail stores. Nowadays, large stations and airports offer a diversity of stores and services comparable to that of a medium-sized city – in a space that is always safe and tidy. Furthermore, premium hotels and service providers settle in their proximities.

Like the old marketplaces, they have become meeting points for a now globally travelling society. The requirements of the travellers are satisfied accordingly. Food from nearly all continents is being offered: whoever craves Asian, Middle Eastern or South American fare can have that wish – and most others – fulfilled. The requirements of travellers create a demand, which leads to growth and prosperity. The concept of “marketplaces” continues to be developed, only more sustainably than in the past.

Intermodality with regard to the transport of goods and people is one of the key success factors of modern business locations. Where there is the courage for large logistical projects, it is rewarded with economic growth. The expansion and further development of airports intensify their significance as hubs in global supply chains. Large logistics and warehouse providers are quick to settle near international airports. They are followed by technical service providers, and the result is job creation.


Remaining competitive on an international level requires understanding and communicating logistics as an opportunity for innovation and employment and as an economically dynamic process. In order to secure lasting growth, ca­pac­i­ties and resources in the fields of infrastructure, surface area, technology and knowledge must be provided and permanently developed while taking into account sustainability and ecological concerns. Therefore, it is necessary that politicians, businesses and scientists further stimulate the interconnectedness of the logistics actors. Efficient control of the global flow of goods in a world that is increasingly characterised by worldwide trade relations has led to an increased sig
ni­ficance of logistics for businesses and especially the economy. This includes the production of lorries, trains, aeroplanes and ships as well as all related infrastructure arrangements such as motorways, stations, airports and harbours.
In that regard, the macroeconomic significance of logistics is easy to attest. In terms of turnover and employment, the logistics industry in Germany comes in third after the car industry and the healthcare sector.

If logistics-related branches such as handling and storage technologies, IT systems, logistical real estate, fuels, trans­port infrastructure and the construction industry are taken into consideration, logistics is by far the most important sector in Germany. Another reason why logistics are gaining in importance is the constant increase of commodity flows in newly developed economic spaces and to new business contacts in the course of globalisation.


An excellent logistical infrastructure is important to the economic growth in the Berlin-Brandenburg region. The new airport is the first one in the Berlin-Brandenburg region to fully satisfy the requirements of the economy and, located in the heart of Europe, to focus strongly on inner-European point-to-point traffic as well as selected long-distance connections. The central location within Europe is a strategic advantage for the region: flight times to eastern Europe and Asia are one hour shorter than from established hub airports in the west of the continent. Besides attractive flight connections, the airport will also offer a variety of non-aviation interests. For passengers and visitors, the new capital-city airport will represent an attractive and diversified high-end marketplace with approximately 150 retail and gastronomic areas on more than 20,000 square metres. This in­­cludes about 30 gastronomic and 20 service establishments. The core of the retail concept is a 9,000-square-metre marketplace in the centre of the main terminal. Right across from the terminal will be Airport City, a modern service centre, which will comprise a 4-star Superior Hotel of the Steigenberger group with an adjoining conference centre, an office and service building as well as a parking structure with a capacity of 10,000 vehicles.

On the northeastern edge of the airport, the largest industrial park of the capital is in the making: BBI, Business Park Berlin. The lavishly verdant area of 109 hectares provides perfectly tailored, all-round, fully developed plots for any type of company – from start-up to back office, from regional distribution centre to globally active producer. In order to ensure fast and reliable transport of goods and people, the airport will have excellent connections to the road and railway network. Immediately under the terminal, there will be a six-track station with very good connections to the centre of Berlin and to the hinterland. The railways to and from the airport are 100 per cent Intercity-Express-compatible. With its own access to the six-lane A113 motorway, the airport has a connection to Berlin’s urban motorway A100 and the Berliner Ring A10. Federal road B96a represents an additional road connection.

In the coming years, the new airport will bring about a significant improvement of the location quality thanks to rising passenger numbers in particular, and generate 40,000 new jobs thanks to the effect of the increased purchasing power. The total employment effect is estimated to reach 73,000 jobs in 2012. We are convinced that, as a marketplace of the modern age, the BBI will trigger a considerable economic growth spurt in the region.


Dr_Rainer_Schwarz_2008The author has many years of experience in the field of airport management. Since 2006, he has been man CEO of Berlin Air­­ports. He is a board member of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Co­logne, pre­sidium member of the federal association for the tourist industry (BTW) as well as member of the supervisory board of Berlin Tour­­ismus & Kongress GmbH. He is an hon­­orary professor at the technical college of Wildau.