Canada’s economy is taking off with airports – and that’s not just a metaphor. When you break down all the ways Canada’s airport system lifts and empowers the Canadian economy, it’s hard to picture our prosperity without it.

Let’s start with the numbers.

“Canada’s air transport sector – of which airports are a big part – adds $35 billion to Canada’s GDP,” says Daniel-Robert Gooch, president of the Canadian Airports Council, “and we handled more than 140 million passengers in 2016, up from 133 million in 2015.”

But the economic impact of Canadian airports goes deeper than raw data. Canada is a trading nation, and enormous swaths of our economy depend on exports. Airports are the lynchpin of those economic flows. “Air cargo accounts for only 3% of the volume of goods moved in Canada,” says Gooch, “yet also accounts for a whopping 35% of the estimated value of those goods. It’s an indication of how important airports are.”

There are sectors of the Canadian economy that simply wouldn’t exist without airports. International education is one example – foreign students are big business for Canadian universities and colleges. These institutions depend on air travel not only to ferry students to and from Canada, but to send representatives abroad for marketing and recruitment.

On Canada’s east coast, the lobster industry depends on air travel – and local airports have gone out of their way to help the sector succeed.

“Halifax Stanfield has invested significantly in our cargo operation that helped the airport set yet another cargo record in 2016,” says Halifax International Airport Authority Chief Commercial Officer Bert van der Stege.

“We’ve extended our main runway and recently constructed a new cargo loading pad near our airside cargo facility that features 7,000 square feet of climate controlled space – ideal for shipping fresh lobster and other seafood.”

Of course, no industry relies more on harmonious airports than tourism, “by a long shot, the biggest industry for us,” says Gooch.

In 2016 alone there were 9.8 million tourist visits to Canada by air.

In a country as vast and as beautiful as ours, tourist dollars from abroad fill Canadian pockets – whether it’s those of local businesses, or tax revenue for our governments. None of that would be possible without airports.

“YYC Calgary International Airport is an economic gateway in more ways than one,” says Bob Sartor, president and chief executive officer of the Calgary Airport Authority. “Not only do we welcome millions of travellers and their tourism dollars, we support jobs for thousands of people at the airport, and tens of thousands of people throughout the region.”

None of these economic flows would exist without the huge infrastructure investments airports have made in their own facilities. Since 1992 – when the federal government transferred airports to local airport authorities – more than $22 billion has been invested into airport infrastructure. Today every dollar of profit made by Canadian airports is reinvested back into the airports themselves. It empowers airports to modernize and expand, better serving travellers – and creating even more opportunities to lift the Canadian economy to grander heights.