Newly published research carried out by RedC Research, has highlighted the critically important role the airport plays in delivering visitors to the counties such as Donegal 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 Donegal. Key findings from the report from a Donegal perspective included:
· 60% of overseas visitors who visit Donegal are holidaymakers
· 26% of overseas visitors who visit Donegal visit from mainland Europe ie Barcelona, Milan
· Overseas visitors spend an average of 6 nights in Donegal when visiting the region
Hiking, cross country walking and visiting National parks and forests were the most popular activities that people engaged in while visiting Donegal. 32% of overseas visitors coming to Donegal said an event or festival was also one of the highlights of their stay in Donegal. In addition the Wild Atlantic Way, Sliabh Liag and Malin Head featured as three particularly popular attractions for visitors coming to Donegal.
Visitors to Donegal through the airport also provided a boost for local accommodation providers with 57% of respondents indicating they stayed in either a hotel or B&B during their stay in Donegal whilst visitors to Donegal estimated they spent on average €697 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 Donegal & 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 Donegal 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."
Seamus Neely, CE, Donegal County Council, said: “We welcome these research findings which will be of great value to us in determining future marketing strategies for the development of our tourism sector. Access and ease of access are important factors in growing visitor numbers in Donegal.
"Ireland West Airport’s plans for continued route development for overseas markets particularly through new European and US routes will benefit Donegal from both an economic development and inbound tourism perspective."
Pictured with this story: Members of the region's Local Authority delegation pictured in the new state of the art Visitor Discovery Centre at Ireland West Airport Knock. Pictured with Board Chairman Arthur French and Airport Manager Joe Gilmore, were from left Donegal Head of Tourism, Barney McLaughlin, Sligo Cllr Paul Taylor, Sligo Co Council Chief Executive Ciarán Hayes, Mayo Co Council CEO and airport board member Peter Hynes, Galway Co Council Chief Executive Kevin Kelly, Roscommon Co Council's Leas-Cathaoirleach, Cllr Kathleen Shanagher, Galway City Council's Chief Executive Brendan McGrath, Roscommon Co Council Chief Executive, Eugene Cummins and Leitrim Co Council's Director of Services Joseph Gilhooly. Picture Henry Wills.