Newly published research carried out by RedC Research has highlighted the critically important role the airport plays in delivering visitors to the counties.
The research was carried out to assess the behaviour of incoming tourists to the region from overseas in order 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, RedC 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 Mayo. Key findings from the report from a Mayo perspective included: (1 ) Three in four overseas visitors using Ireland West Airport visited Mayo as part of their stay; (2 ) 38 per cent of overseas visitors who visit Mayo are holidaymakers and (3 ) Overseas visitors spend an average of five nights in Mayo when visiting the region.
Hiking and Cross Country walking were the most popular activities people engaged in while visiting Mayo (one in three overseas visitors surveyed partake in these activities ), with the Wild Atlantic Way, Westport and Croagh Patrick, noted as key highlights for visitors in Mayo.
Visitors to Mayo through the airport also provided a boost for local accommodation providers with 42% of respondents indicating they stayed in either a Hotel or B&B and spent on average €525.
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 five per cent since 2016 with 2018 being the third consecutive year of passenger growth at the airport with numbers increasing by 3% to a record high of 771,619. (1 ) Increase in capacity on UK services by +20% since 2016; (2 ) Introduction of new twice weekly service from Cologne starting June 1, 2019; (3 ) 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 airline customers and passengers; (4 ) Opening of a new state of the art Visitor Discovery Centre to promote Mayo and the entire region and (5 ) 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 it is very positive to see the direct spin-off benefits that the Mayo 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, Peter Hynes, chief executive, Mayo County Council, said: "These new figures show the importance of Ireland West Airport Knock to Mayo and the Western region as a whole. 75% of visitors using the airport stayed in Mayo, something which might not happen if access was through one of the other international airports. The important boost to the local Mayo economy cannot be overstated.
"Tourism is important in Mayo and is the basis for many jobs within the county. To see the numbers of visitors growing and the very positive feedback about the Mayo experience augurs well for our future. The joint investment between the seven local authorities in the North-West region has seen welcome and positive developments for tourism here in Mayo. With more passengers coming through Ireland West Airport Knock and more routes being added every year, its importance to our economy is more significant than ever.”