STRENGTHENED support for Shannon Airport is needed to ensure the growth of local businesses, Limerick Chamber CEO Dee Ryan told Limerick Voice.
A recent report showed a substantial decline in growth at Shannon Airport.
The decline in passenger numbers in the last year was due to a number of contributing factors.
Dublin’s dominance, coupled with the grounding of the Boeing 737 Max jet, the withdrawal of Norwegian Airline’s routes and the reduction in popular Ryanair routes, have all compounded.
Presidents of Limerick, Ennis, Galway and Shannon Chambers together with the Limerick Chamber Chief Economist and CEO sat down recently with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.
Chamber President Eoin Ryan said the meeting was positive: “The Taoiseach has committed to examining the viability of a small number of specified requests made in the meeting which would be of benefit to Shannon Airport and the wider region,” Eoin Ryan said.
Dee Ryan, CEO of Limerick Chamber said investment in Shannon Airport is key to ensuring a viable commercial economy.
The Taoiseach assured them he is “committed to seeing Shannon achieve its full potential”.
Limerick Chamber commissioned a report by Copenhagen Economics, which was the first of its kind done in the country.
“One of the recommendations that has come out in the report, that we are pushing hard for, is that we change how we view aviation policy.
“Instead of just looking at aviation legislation through the lens of the tourism industry, which is what we do, we need to recognise that aviation policy impacts all the business that we do in Ireland.”
“Those connections and global trade have been what’s brought about the recovery in our economy and what will be the key ongoing characteristic for our economy in the next 10-20 years,” she said.
Dee said Limerick is perfectly positioned for those looking to have access to the European market.
“We are a prime location for companies from other parts of the world, looking to set up their European base in an educated workforce that’s English speaking.
“We have a tax-friendly structure, we have multinationals, but for all of those reasons we need to make sure that we lay on the flights that allow these companies to continue to come and invest here.”
The Limerick Chamber is promoting a concept in their report which asks the Government to set up advisory boards as part of a strategy to develop regional airports.
These boards would be made up of “regional stakeholders like educational bodies, big tourism and business representative groups, as well as elected officials from the local authority” and these regional bodies would assist the boards of the airports in their work, Dee said.
A spokesperson for University of Limerick highlighted the importance of having “a fully connected airport” in the region, as it will “support and enhance the region’s growth, as well as our own”.
“Not alone is it critical for our own University of Limerick academics and students, but connectivity at Shannon Airport is hugely important given our desire to create further international partnerships,” they added.
The University also wants Shannon Airport to have access to other European-based hubs, due to the “uncertain issues that may possibly arise with Heathrow Airport” in light of Brexit.
“It is critical that initiatives are established, that can make it more attractive for airlines to open new routes or increase the frequency of exiting routes at Shannon Airport,” the University spokesperson emphasised.
Any significant reduction in routes to Shannon Airport could have a negative effect on the local economy.
Adare Manor CEO Colm Hannon added: “International access to Shannon Airport is hugely important for businesses across all sectors in the entire South-West region”.
“In particular, convenient travel, avoiding congestion and enjoying a streamlined experience plays a key role for tourism, which is a significant source of revenue for the region and wider economy.”
Colm also expressed the importance of having access to the west of Ireland via Shannon Airport for guests at Adare Manor who travel from all over the world.
Along with this, Colm noted how “it is also essential for surrounding businesses and the community that this access is available”.
Supporting this argument, General Manager of the Limerick Strand Hotel, Stephen O’Connor agrees: “in the Shannon region we are very lucky to have such strong FDI companies”.
“I think it is important for all stakeholders in the region to get behind our airport and support all initiatives that increase visitor numbers to our airport and region,” he said.
The recent uncertainty has strengthened local businesses’ ambition to ensure that this crucial connectivity with Europe and beyond will be maintained.
On a more promising note, Aer Lingus has recently announced two new European routes from Shannon Airport to Barcelona and Paris.
The announcement of these new routes is welcomed by Shannon Airport, with CEO of Shannon Group, Mary Considine who predicts that these new routes will lead to a 20 percent increase in capacity at Shannon next summer.
“This development is a major advancement in our promise to connect our airport and the west of Ireland to a growing number of global destinations, helping us to make this region a thriving, connected place,” she added.
Limerick Voice 2019 newspaper is available today in all copies of the Limerick Leader.