Minister Paschal Donohoe meets agencies in drive to grow Cork Airport

A multi-agency drive is under way to attract new passengers into debt-ridden Cork Airport from Germany, France, Italy, and Scandinavia.

A high-profile meeting was held yesterday to discuss enhancing the airport’s future and creating initiatives to attract more tourist visits to the Cork region.

Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe was joined by officials from Tourism Ireland and Cork County Council at the meeting in Inchydoney, Clonakilty.

On Wednesday evening, Mr Donohoe met with around 60 members of West Cork Tourism and locals involved in outdoor-pursuits businesses to discuss a number of issues, including development and marketing.

Tourism Ireland’s head of strategy, Peter Nash, said yesterday he hopes a new marketing strategy, focused on the Wild Atlantic Way, will attract “culturally curious” tourists who would enjoy the region’s food, drink, heritage, culture, outdoor pursuits, and scenery.

“These would be middle-aged, middle-income people,” he said.

Mr Nash said promotional advertisements for Cork, generally, are being screened in cinemas and on televisions in France and Germany — the latter being the airport’s number one target for new routes.

Airport managing director Niall MacCarthy said while a €200m debt on the new terminal “was a hindrance”, management had to continue the job of building up passenger numbers. He said increased cohesion between various stakeholders would hopefully achieve that. He was also more confident of achieving targets after yesterday’s meeting.

Mr MacCarthy said creating routes to Rome, Madrid, Stockholm, and Copenhagen were on the airport’s shopping list and it is involved in marketing projects with airlines.

He said the airport only has two flights to Munich per week and that he wants to increase that number. In the past two months, new routes to Prague, Ibiza, and Cardiff had been announced.

“Around 64% of passengers are taking outbound flights with 36% inbound. We want to balance those percentages more,” Mr MacCarthy said, adding that management have a target to grow passenger traffic to 2.8m per annum within five years.

Mr Donohoe said that in the coming weeks a new tourism branding would be launched for the south and east of the country which will help attract more people to the region.

He said he was impressed with tourist groups and businesses in West Cork and wants to work with them to achieve results.

Cork South West TD Jim Daly (FG) said it is intended that the high-profile group which met for three hours yesterday will meet again in June and with Mr Donohoe before the end of the year to review progress.

Meanwhile, Cork Airport management have no intention of selling off a disused terminal.

Mr MacCarthy said the property had been earmarked for future expansion of the apron. He said the new terminal has capacity to cater for 4m passengers per year. It is expected to handle 2.05m this year, so there is no point in reopening the old terminal building for passenger handling, he said.

He added that it would not be feasible for any airline to take over the former terminal, built more than 50 years ago.

“It would require a huge investment in new systems,” he said. “Selling it off would not be realistic.”

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