Tourism & Economic Development for the Mid-West Region in light of Open Skies
In November 2005, the Minister for Transport reached agreement with the US authorities on transitional arrangements for Shannon Airport in the context of the proposed EU–US “Open Skies” Air Transport Agreement. In announcing the new arrangements, the Minister indicated that his Department would prepare an economic and tourism development plan for the region.
A further challenge for the region has emerged with the withdrawal from January 2008 of the Aer Lingus Shannon- Heathrow service.
The purpose of this report is to consider the issues impacting on Shannon Airport and to present a focussed Action Plan to assist the airport and the wider Mid-west region to adapt to the new circumstances.
The Plan has been drafted in consultation with the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism, Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment, Department of Communications, Energy & Natural Resources and Department of Finance.
The proposed Action Plan sets out a series of measures relating both to the airport itself, key supporting infrastructure in the region and enterprise and tourism development. Specifically the Plan envisages:
- the establishment of an independent and financially viable airport authority with a growth oriented business plan and enhanced pre-clearance facilities for transatlantic traffic;
- the establishment of a focused tourism marketing programme to promote the wider Shannon catchment area in addition to the ongoing roll-out of existing programmes by Tourism Ireland, Fáilte Ireland and Shannon Development;
- a comprehensive transport infrastructure development programme through the implementation of Transport 21 which addresses all of the key surface transport linkages to Shannon airport;
- the development of broadband communications infrastructure designed to ensure that current and future enterprise have broadband access at competitive prices; and
- the continued delivery of the enterprise agencies’ support programmes and activities, including the achievement of the targets set out in the Shannon Development Corporate Plan.
The programme for Government includes a commitment to provide marketing support to the Shannon region for a transitional period to help consolidate existing markets and develop new sources of business. To this end, it is intended to provide additional funds, over and above existing commitments in the NDP for a targeted Tourism Ireland–led overseas marketing campaign for the wider catchment of Shannon Airport, from Kerry to Donegal. This campaign will have regard to Tourism Ireland’s New Super Regions Initiative and its Strategic Frameworks for North America and Mainland Europe.
The campaign will be delivered overseas by Tourism Ireland and will involve Tourism Ireland, via a dedicated group, working in close consultation with the Failte Ireland Regions, Shannon Development and key industry interests on the formation and monitoring of the campaign.
The plan also envisages the continued rollout of existing funding programmes by Tourism Ireland, Fáilte Ireland and Shannon Development.
There is also a commitment in the programme for Government to investigate the feasibility of a Regional Conference Centre in the Shannon/ Limerick area.
Enterprise Development Agencies
The Enterprise Development Agencies, Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland, Shannon Development and the City and County Enterprise Boards have a key role to play in promoting the development of the Mid West region in line with the Government’s policy objective of ensuring balanced regional development and the implementation of the National Spatial Strategy.
Under its new mandate, Shannon Development has been given a more focussed regional economic development role, with priority to be given to addressing the needs of the less developed part of the region. The Company will continue to work in partnership with other stakeholders to identify and bring forward new initiatives, projects and programmes to maximise the development potential of the region.
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