Report highlights importance of Ireland West Airport to local Leitrim economy

Leitrim Observer reporter

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UTV Ireland series continues to explore ‘The Airport up in Knock’

Ireland West Airport Knock

Newly published research carried out by RedC Research, Ireland’s premier provider of research-based consultancy services in Ireland, has highlighted the critically important role the airport plays in delivering visitors to the counties who are now shareholders in the airport.

The research was carried out to establish the behaviour of incoming tourists to the region from overseas with the main aim to establish the benefits that the airport brings to the region and the counties within the catchment region. In order to achieve these research aims, RED C interviewers interviewed departing passengers from Ireland West Airport between the months of May and September 2018. All passengers were overseas visitors who had travelled to the West of Ireland on services into Ireland West Airport.

The research findings reinforced the airport’s position as a critically important economic driver for the region and in particular for County Leitrim. Key findings from the report from a Leitrim perspective included:

-27% of overseas visitors who visit Leitrim are holidaymakers- 
- Overseas visitors spend an average of 7 nights in Leitrim when visiting the region
- Those who visit and stay in Leitrim spend the most time there and the most money there on their trip to the region
- Natural landscape and the outdoors the most popular reasons for visiting Leitrim

Hiking, Cross Country walking and visiting National parks and forests were the most popular activities that people engaged in while visiting Leitrim with over 75% of overseas visitors surveyed partaking in these activities

Visitors to Leitrim through the airport also provided a boost for local accommodation providers with 45% of respondents indicating they stayed in either a Hotel or B&B during their stay in Leitrim whilst visitors to Leitrim estimated they spent on average €708 during their stay in the region.

In July 2016 investment was approved by seven local authorities to invest €7.3m in the airport for a 17.5% shareholding. Last week a delegation from each of the seven local authorities visited the airport for an update on progress and developments since 2016. At the meeting the airport provided an update which included:

 ·         Increase in passenger numbers of 5% since 2016 with 2018 being the third consecutive year of passenger growth at the airport with passenger numbers increasing by 3% to a record high of 771,619.

·         Increase in capacity on UK services by +20% since 2016

·         Introduction of new twice weekly service from Cologne starting June 1st 2019

·         Work commenced on a €15m airport transformation plan to modernise and enhance the airport to ensure the facility will meet the future needs of both our airline customers and passengers.

·         Opening of a new state of the art Visitor Discovery Centre to promote Leitrim and the entire region

·         Introduction of new state of the art digital platforms throughout the airport to promote the  counties of the West and North West of Ireland

Commenting on the RedC Findings and the ongoing collaboration with the seven local authorities, Joe Gilmore, Managing Director, Ireland West Airport said ’The investment by the local authorities into the airport has been a very welcome and positive development for the airport and indeed the entire region. The RedC research demonstrates the significant benefit the airport is bringing to the entire region and its very positive to see the direct spin off benefits that the Leitrim economy is enjoying as highlighted in the RedC report. The collaboration with the local authorities is a very positive example of what can be achieved when resources are combined for the objective of regional development and inbound tourism’.

 Speaking at the airport during last week’s local authority update, Joseph Gilhooly, Deputy Chief Executive, Leitrim County Council, said ‘Leitrim County Council are very happy to be involved in the Local Authority partnership with Ireland West Airport.  The Airport provides a key piece of infrastructure for the continued development of the region.  Leitrim County Council would like to acknowledge the excellent work of the Airport Board, Directors, Management and Staff in continuing to grow the business of the airport and to secure investment for the continuous programme of development of the airport facility”