The Border, Midland and Western Regional Assembly presented a report to the Department of Transport on Thursday last on the economic impact of the regional airports in the BMW Region. The report states that the four regional airports (Donegal, Galway, Ireland West Airport Knock, Sligo) are a strategic asset to the BMW Region and highlights their multi-faceted contribution to the regional economy in terms of business investment, tourism, access to markets and quality of life for the region.
The report, prepared in co-operation with the four regional airports, provides a timely input into the Value for Money Review currently being undertaken by the Department of Transport into public expenditure on regional air services, including capital investment and Public Service Obligation (PSO) supported routes. In 2008, the regional airports were responsible for 378 jobs (direct and indirect), generated over €14m in direct added value to the economy, while inbound visitors spent an estimated €93m in the region.
The findings of the analysis undertaken confirms that continued investment is justified in order to build the competitiveness of the BMW Region in terms of its connectivity to major growth hubs and markets, its attractiveness for inward investment and the capacity of the airports to bring new business to the region's tourism industry. Direct access into the BMW Region is vitally important for inbound tourism reinforcing the need for further route development both to mainland Europe and on transatlantic routes.
The report makes several recommendations on how the economic contribution of the regional airports can be further enhanced, which is particularly important in the current economic climate. It calls for a more coherent national policy support framework within national aviation policy and a level playing field vis à vis the state airports at Dublin, Shannon and Cork. It recognises the distinctive role played by each regional airport, calls for the preparation of an economic and tourism development plan for each regional airport, the establishment of a route development fund and the fulfilment of capital investment commitments under the current NDP. It also highlights the potential for the development of airport business parks targeted at air-intensive industries.
The value of the daily links to Dublin airport, supported by the PSO subsidy, in particular to business customers, is also highlighted. Dublin airport is the primary international transport hub for business travellers and direct daily links are of enormous benefit and should be retained. The largest beneficiary of the PSO support is the broad regional economy and not necessarily the regional airports or regional airlines. When all of the benefits are taken into account, the cost of the PSO subsidy is more than justified.
Mr. Gerry Finn, Director of the BMW Regional Assembly stated that, "the regional airports are a key resource in the development of a more diversified, sustainable and knowledge-based regional economy and in the restoration of economic growth in the years ahead. As an island economy, connectivity and high quality access infrastructure are essential for attracting inward investment and tourists to the Region and also for promoting high value export-oriented businesses to locate here".
Mr. Finn added "this report provides a strong body of evidence in favour of the further development of the regional airports, supported by a favourable policy environment and consistent with the goals of the National Spatial Strategy. These factors should all be taken account of in reviewing the value of the regional airports to the national and regional economy".