Ireland West Airport Knock has welcomed the official publication of the Study Group report on the future development and growth options at the airport. The report contains a number of targets and parameters that will guide the airport in pursuing a progressive growth strategy and implement a business plan that will enable the airport to achieve a sustainable position in the longer term.
The study group, chaired by John O’Mahony TD, which met on eight occasions, comprised representatives from local and national interests including the Airport Board and management, Government Departments, local business, State agencies and local authorities, and were assisted by Ernst & Young.
Deputy O’Mahony said: “The study group represented an opportunity and a challenge against the backdrop of changing policy positions at both a national and European level. My concern has been to ensure that the contribution made by regional airports to social and economic development in peripheral locations is fairly acknowledged at a national and European level. By using IWA Knock as a reference case, I believe this has been demonstrated.”
Joe Gilmore, Managing Director, Ireland West Airport Knock, said: “The report clearly highlights the strong business case for future investment in the airport and identifies clear deliverables and returns to support this investment and we are confident Government will endorse the recommendations outlined in this report and put in place a long-term investment programme to enable the airport to deliver on the above and achieve a self-sustainable position within this period.”
Leo Varadkar TD, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, said: “A decision has now been made to extend Exchequer support for regional airports beyond 2014. My Department will now develop a framework for approval by the EU Commission in respect of State support for regional airports, for implementation at the end of the current programme of support (i.e. from 2015).
“IWAK, as well as the other regional airports, will now need to develop business plans for their on-going sustainability and long-term sustainability eventually without Exchequer support, in line with EU State aid guidelines, which will restrict the extent to which the State (including local authorities) will be in a position to support the airports. Central to these will need to be regional and local business investment.”
Key recommendations contained in the report are:
• Where there is viable path to sustainability and growth – supported by a robust business plan – investment in regional airports by local authorities and business should be supported by a targeted and time limited multi-annual programme of Exchequer supports.
• There should be deeper involvement in, and support to, IWA Knock from the relevant local authorities.
• An IWA Knock Development Partnership Group should be established by Mayo County Council with the support of the airport and relevant tourism agencies and should draw up a detailed and specific action plan to drive tourism in the catchment.
• To assist the airport in maintaining its lean cost base and tight executive team, the relevant local authorities should lend their technical and professional capabilities as appropriate and lead in the development of a local tourism plan.
• State agencies – in particular those in the tourism sector – must enable and support the airport and other regional stakeholders in growing passenger numbers through tourism and other channels.
The report of the Study Group can be accessed at: