AN innovative marketing strategy has been unveiled by the independent Shannon Airport Authority (SAA) to dramatically increase the stay time of thousands of visitors to Clare.
SAA chairman Rose Hynes said the new Shannon Group will market the airport and the former Shannon Heritage visitor attractions, such as Bunratty Castle, King John’s Castle in Limerick and the shop in the Cliffs of Moher, in a far more coherent way. She said the group is also focused on increasing the length of stay for visitors travelling to Clare; trying to move away from the reliance on day trips to the big attractions.
Boosted by the Ryanair announcement of the delivery of 300,000 extra passengers by the end of next year, with eight new routes starting next April, Ms Hynes said airport managers would try to sell tickets for their visitor attractions when they are marketing the airport abroad.
“We are going to do a variety of things here at the airport. It is no one thing over another. We are not relying on one airline because we have grown the overall pie here at the airport.
“I think Shannon has huge potential and I think its best days are yet to come,” Ms Hynes added.
She revealed the airport is already planning to organise roadshows in the new destinations to encourage people to visit Shannon. Airport officials will also be working with tour operators in other destinations to make them aware of increased access and connectivity to the region.
“We will be marketing the region and the airport in a much different all-encompassing way. We will be working hard to drive people to the West of Ireland.
“If you want to visit the West of Ireland, the message is you fly into Shannon. We are marketing it on that basis. An increase in passengers serves all of our purposes. The whole marketing focus has changed. With Shannon having more additional routes and autonomy since independence to market itself in the manner it sees best; I think that will make a big difference,” she said.
In a declaration of a new approach by Shannon Airport management, Ms Hynes said, “We are working with the tourism agencies in a totally different way because we can market the airport in the way which suits us best. There is a new focus on how Tourism Ireland and Fáilte Ireland work with Shannon Airport. We have a whole new working relationship with them, so things have completely changed.”
The airport authority chairman stated Tourism Ireland chief executive officer, Niall Gibbons, had been informed about the eight new routes when he was in the United States last week.
Ms Hynes confirmed the development of the new multi-million International Aviation Services Centre (IASC) is firmly on track, following the appointment of aviation strategist, Patrick Edmond, as its new managing director. In fact, she expects to have some significant announcements in the not too distant future in relation to the IASC.
The IASC will focus on further developing the existing 40 aviation-related businesses, currently employing 1,600 people, at Shannon into a globally significant aerospace cluster.
As well as leading the IASC, Mr Edmond will also be responsible for the new Shannon Group’s overall corporate strategy. This is, essentially, the development of a whole cluster aviation services in Shannon and driving that forward.
Mr Edmond has extensive experience in the aviation industry, spanning two decades worldwide. He was most recently founder and managing director of aviation strategy consultancy e2consult.
Ms Hynes said Shannon Group has already started negotiations with several different entities to develop a cluster of aviation services, which would take time to fully conclude. She estimated it could take three to five years before it is developed to its full potential.
“This will involve growing existing industry in Shannon, clustering together new aviation services to attract in new associated enterprises and get entrepreneurs to carry out initiatives in the aviation industry.
“We have filled all of our existing hangars and we are now looking at new hangars. A masterplan has also been drawn up,” she said.
Finance Minister Michael Noonan introduced new tax incentives for building hangars and other aviation developments in the last budget.
Asked what is the benefit of not having to second guess or secure approval for major decisions with the Dublin Airport Authority, she said it made an “enormous difference” as the SAA could now be more responsive.
“Shannon is now in control of its own destiny and can decide what deal best suits its needs, with all the emphasis on its own arrangements.”
She pointed out airport managers no longer have to think of the impact of major decisions on the three State airports. She was delighted that Shannon was “first out of the blocks” to respond to Ryanair’s reaction to the abolition of the travel tax.
“This will provide a major boost to the passenger numbers in Shannon. It is also a major boost to tourism and business in the region.”
She said the airport wants to work with all interested stakeholders in the region, to make new and existing routes a success.
“We said we would grow passenger numbers at Shannon. We started with the transatlantic passengers and had significant success to date with that. Today [Ryanair’s new routes launch] is about the European routes and this is a significant boost for Shannon and we are growing our European passengers, as we said we would.
“It is important from an inbound perspective because it boosts tourism but also gives options on the outbound side,” she added.
She described 2014 as a significant tourism year, as Limerick celebrates its designation as the City of Culture, while major celebrations are planned to mark the 1000th anniversary of the death of High King of Ireland, Brian Boru. There is also the continued development of the Wild Atlantic Way.