Shannon chamber has welcomed the return to growth in passenger numbers at the airport, after being on a downward spiral for the last five years.
The chamber is also calling for efforts to be made to attract investment from various sectors into the Free Zone.
“The increasing passenger numbers through Shannon Airport is most welcome and clearly indicated that the sums do add up when increased emphasis is placed on route development at a local level,” said chamber chief executive, Helen Downes.
“You can sense the positivity at the airport now. The increased route options to the US are bringing US tourists back to the West of Ireland and, as the figures for Europe also show, this region is attractive for people who distinctly want to sample what Irish regions have to offer.
“The road infrastructure to Dublin makes the city experience an easier commute; however, we must not lose sight of the fact that an upgrade of the M20 to Cork is still essential, as also is the completion of the N17/N18 motorway. That would greatly open up access to the Western seaboard,” Ms Downes added.
She said the business community would get behind Shannon if it offers appropriate connectivity. “Time is of the essence to the business commuter, both inbound and outbound. Once Shannon gets better connections to mainland European hubs, business traffic will also increase. Much has been achieved in the short time since Shannon Airport’s separation from Dublin. We can now look positively to future route gains and hope those outside the immediate region will appreciate the range of routes available at Shannon Airport and make it their airport of choice for any business or leisure travel plans.”
In a recent statement on its website, the chamber said that while it welcomes moves to integrate the Free Zone and Shannon Airport, its important that all the eggs aren’t put into the same basket.
“Shannon chamber welcomes the fact that the elements to drive the transformational change required at Shannon Airport are progressively being put in place. Shannon chamber would however, make two recommendations on how the Shannon Free Zone should be integrated into the new Shannon Airport Authority.
“The focus Rose Hynes and her team are placing on the development of an International Aviation Services Centre at Shannon is welcome. It makes sense to build on the cluster of aviation businesses that already exist in Shannon in activities such as aircraft leasing, maintenance repair and overhaul or technical services.
“But it is also essential to secure a continuing supply of mobile investment in other sectors. A multi-sectoral approach will ensure Shannon is not overexposed to the cyclical nature of the aviation industry; when one sector is experiencing a downturn there is the potential for others to sustain growth and activity; we build on the success and skills base that is already in place.”
The chamber called for a dedicated team to be put in place to work on securing investment from various sectors. “It is also essential that a business development team is in place to seek out, engage with and secure mobile investment opportunities from these sectors.
“The SAA has a marketing team whose job is to develop and deliver new airline routes for Shannon.
“Shannon chamber would suggest there is a need to have a business development team in place focused on presenting to and persuading potential investors to invest in and develop their business in Shannon.
“These are two critical ingredients required to ensure that vacant sites and buildings in the Shannon Free Zone are occupied, generating revenue and providing the capitals required to plug into the Shannon Airport financial plan.”