This is a sponsored post by Heathrow Airport.

For most of the post-war period, the UK has been the one of the best-connected countries in the world by air, yet once again we see our core strength under threat. For the UK to rebalance its economy, it has to double exports. To double exports you need to have more capacity at the UK’s only hub airport, Heathrow.

Air transport is now as vital for Britain’s high value exports as shipping was for the country’s bulkier exports of the past. Although Heathrow has been full for the past decade it remains Britain’s most important port, accounting for 26 per cent of all exports by value, more than the ports of Southampton and Felixstowe combined. Two thirds of all UK air freight goes through Heathrow, and this increases to 77 per cent with non-EU countries.

Almost all the high growth countries in the world are in Asia and the Americas – markets you can only get to by air. If Britain wants to win the race for growth, we need to be better connected by air to these markets than our competitors in Europe.

Airlines can only get to these parts of the world economically from a hub airport, so our choice is to expand Heathrow or go through Paris or Dubai to get to emerging markets. This year for the first time Heathrow has been overtaken as the world’s busiest international airport. Dubai now wears the crown. Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport already markets itself as ‘the UK’s favourite hub airport.’ The relative decline is not due to a fall in demand for air services, but the result of limitations on air capacity.

Direct connections to long-haul markets drive exports. Being one of only six airports in the world with more than fifty long haul routes, Heathrow gets Britain to markets across the globe. Direct air connections to emerging markets are one of the key factors that can drive the UK’s trade by up to twenty times with those destinations than those without.

The UK is falling behind its European competitors despite having 95 per cent of the world’s GDP within range of a direct flight. France, Germany and Holland have all invested in their hub airports, and as a result UK air cargo growth is being outstripped by all three. In 2013, Heathrow saw less cargo traffic than Charles de Gaulle, Frankfurt and Schiphol each individually, and by the end of the next decade – without expansion – it is expected Schiphol will ship twice as much freight as Heathrow.

This is because Heathrow is now operating at capacity for freight on key routes, particularly to the Asia-Pacific, and only more flights can increase our freight capacity. In China alone, we will need more flights not just to Beijing and Shanghai but also new routes to Wuhan, Xian and Chongqing.  In twenty or thirty years’ time, these cities could be as significant for the next generation as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles are now. If Britain is to be a leading trading nation in the future, our children will need to get easily and quickly to far more global markets than we do today.

An expanded Heathrow will serve more long-haul destinations, increasing routes by over 50 per cent, making emerging markets more accessible for UK exporters. Just look at the stories of exporters like Louis Barnett, a Staffordshire-based chocolatier who exports to Poland, UAE and Mexico, Sound Moves UK, a company that exports sound equipment around the globe for some of the world’s biggest music artists and MHI, a Bristol-based mail handling company riding the e-commerce revolution.

The Airports Commission analysis shows expansion at Heathrow will create up to £211 billion in economic benefits and 180,000 jobs across the whole of the UK. Expansion at Heathrow is not only best for Britain but it’s also backed by Britain. Over 30 Chambers of Commerce from all regions of Britain support Heathrow expansion because they recognise that Heathrow will help rebalance the UK and it isn’t just for London and the South East.

The investment and opportunities that will come from Heathrow’s expansion across the country will not only create important jobs for the next generation, it will position nations and regions to capture investment and create opportunities for people and exports to reach the emerging markets where there’s the greatest potential for growth. Only Heathrow can take Britain further.