It's a good time for Ireland's Shannon region and the Shannon Group, which saw significant positive growth in 2016.
Shannon Group’s role as a key driver of regional economic growth has been underlined by increases in 2016 passenger and visitor numbers to Shannon Airport and Shannon Heritage, respectively.
In another positive 12 months for Shannon Group, passenger numbers at Shannon Airport increased for the fourth consecutive year with over 1.74 million flying through the airport. This amounted to a 2% increase on 2015 and brings to 24% the total increase at the airport in year on year passenger numbers since the airport was separated in 2013.
The US market again returned positive numbers, with 396,708 flying through Shannon from its five American destinations – JFK New York, Newark, Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia airports. This is a 4% increase on 2015. The UK market proved buoyant despite uncertainties around Brexit, with 758,371 passengers recorded, a 7% increase over the previous year. Meanwhile, Commercial terminal flights at Shannon were up by +5.5% with an average of 45 commercial daily movements at Shannon.
2016 was also a positive year in terms of business development for the airport, with four new airlines - Scandinavian Airlines, Lufthansa, Norwegian Air International and Kuwait Airways – all announcing operations at Shannon. This is the first time in 10 years that four carriers new to the Shannon schedule announced services in one year.
Shannon Heritage - the largest operator of day and night-time tourist attractions in Ireland - also saw significant gains in 2016. Visitor numbers at the company’s portfolio of owned and managed day visitor attractions and evening entertainment venues in Clare, Limerick, Galway and Dublin grew by 30%.
In all, 904,859 people visited the popular visitor attractions, which include Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, King John’s Castle and Malahide Castle and Gardens. Also included in these figures for the first time is the GPO Witness History exhibition, which opened in Dublin at the end of March 2016 and is operated by Shannon Heritage. It attracted 160,000 visitors from March onwards. Bunratty Castle in Co. Clare and King John’s Castle in Limerick city continued to perform strongly, with visitor numbers increasing by 9% to 352,286 and 5.4% to 109,674 respectively.
The year also saw the Group invest significantly in its individual businesses. Shannon Airport’s key capital spend was a €3 million investment in enhancing the Transit Lounge and European departure gates, while at Shannon Heritage €1 million was invested in creating the new-look Bunratty Retail Emporium, extended retail store, a new café, enhanced entrance and refurbished admissions building.
The Group’s property company, Shannon Commercial Properties – owners of 2.4 million sq ft of building space across 300 buildings and in excess of 1,600 acres of land – also in 2016 significantly advanced its €21million phase one redevelopment of the Shannon Free Zone, the world’s first free trade zone. This programme will be completed by the end of 2017, creating 320,000 sq ft state-of-the-art advanced manufacturing, warehousing and office space.
Said Shannon Group CEO Matthew Thomas: “If anything in 2016 we saw further evidence of just how significant ShannonGroup’s influence is across a very large portion of nation’s regional economy. Shannon Airport and Shannon Heritage are really good barometers for business and tourism activity across the wider region we serve and we saw further growth in both again last year. Shannon Commercial Properties, meanwhile, continued its record investment programme in the ShannonFree Zone which will, we are confident, lead to significant inward investment and jobs in the years ahead.
“We are encouraged by the tremendous support we receive from our stakeholders across the region and the West including the County Councils, the business community and Chambers of Commerce, the national jobs creation agencies, IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland, and the national tourism agencies, Fáilte Ireland, Tourism Ireland. We look forward to working even closer in 2017 to progress our aim of promoting the area as a premier location for tourism and industry.”
Shannon Group Chairman Rose Hynes said: “It was a positive year for the Group on a number of fronts, with ShannonAirport and Shannon Heritage both achieving gains. Almost two and a half years after the establishment of Shannon Group, we are entering a new phase where the focus is on investment, achieving further growth across our business units and getting our cost base in line. Shannon Group will continue to drive and enable growth in the wider region in 2017 and beyond. This will involve even further collaboration with our stakeholders which is ongoing. Together we will achieve more.”