Published on February 1st, 2016 | by Jim Lee0
Cork Tourism Strategy Taskforce launches tourism strategy as 2015 passenger numbers show slight fall on 2014
On 26th January 2016, the Cork Tourism Strategy Taskforce at Cork Airport launched, ‘Growing Tourism in Cork’ – A Collective Strategy (see full document here). The tourism strategy outlines a targeted five year plan (2015-2020), for increasing domestic and international visitor numbers to 2.8 million, with an associated increase in spend in the local economy of €865 million. It comes after a number of years of declining passenger numbers, although the airport is now forecasting an 8% increase in 2016 to 2.2 million passengers, up from 2.14 million in 2014. This will be a major challenge as the figures for 2015 at 2,071,210 was 73,266, or 3.4% down, on the 2014 figure. Cork’s figures were boosted by a good Christmas with over 100,000 passengers on 700 flights expected over the Christmas 2015 holiday season. Saturday, 19th December was the busiest day prior to Christmas with a total capacity of 7,500 seats available, whilst Saturday, 2nd January 2016 was the busiest day after Christmas with a total capacity of 7,900. A breakdown of the 2015 figures is given in the following table.
Cork Airport traffic 2015
The taskforce is comprised of the Chief Executives of Cork City and County Councils, together with representatives from Fáilte Ireland, Tourism Ireland and a number of local stakeholders. The Cork Tourism Strategy Taskforce is independently chaired by Mr Ger O’Mahoney.Nevertheless, this ambitious tourism strategy was developed following extensive research and several rounds of stakeholder engagement to help develop a compelling, authentic tourism proposition for Cork. Critically, the research findings are supported by an implementation framework with defined, measurable actions and deliverables clearly outlined to ensure that Cork can reach its tourism potential over the next five years and beyond. The strategy will be delivered through Visit Cork, a new leisure tourism organisation.
Speaking at the launch at Cork Airport, Ger O’Mahoney, Chairman of the Cork Tourism Strategy Taskforce said: “The research we commissioned during the development of this strategy points to a unique opportunity for a specific visitor proposition for Cork. Cork is ideally situated at the gateway of Ireland’s key tourism propositions – Ireland’s Ancient East and the Wild Atlantic Way, positively positioning Cork within the leisure tourism market nationally and internationally”.
He went on, “Cork currently accounts for 17.5% of all overseas visitors who come to Ireland, and is second only to Dublin in terms of tourist bed nights. The visitor research tells us that there are further opportunities for Cork to grow its tourist potential by providing clarity and an awareness of what Cork is and what it has to offer. The research identified the need for a strong visitor proposition for Cork which would encapsulate Cork’s DNA, motivating visitors in key markets. This work will form a significant part of the implementation plan”.
“A key objective of the strategy is to facilitate the growth of Cork’s share of visitors by 21.3%. I’m delighted to say that from the outset, this process has had significant public and private sector buy-in and there has been huge support for, and engagement in, the process by a range of stakeholders across the city and county. Today is just the beginning of a process to implement our ambitious five year plan and I have no doubt this collaboration will continue as the strategy is rolled out,” he concluded.
The Cork Tourism Strategy will be implemented through four separate plans, each with a lead partner, supported by key partners, responsible for successfully executing the priority actions to implement the plans. Visit Cork will be complementary to existing tourism organisations and work is already underway to establish this organisation. Visit Cork will be initially funded by Cork City Council, Cork County Council and daa, with the subsequent involvement of other private sector and public sector partners, supported by Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland.
Exceptional year at Cork Airport for new routes and services
The success of the tourism strategy depends on Cork Airport’s continuing ability to attract new routes and additional services on existing routes. 2015 was an exceptional year at Cork Airport as it celebrated 12 new route announcements in addition to welcoming a number of new airline partners. 2016 year will see an even greater choice of destinations and nearly 400,000 additional seats will be available from Cork Airport with new routes and additional capacity on existing routes.
New routes for 2016 include Düsseldorf with Aer Lingus, London City, Nantes and La Rochelle with CityJet, Madrid with Iberia Express, Cardiff with Flybe, Southampton and Leeds Bradford with Aer Lingus Regional as well as Menorca with Lee Travel and Stein Travel. Although it’s early days both the London City and Cardiff services appear to be struggling with achieving sufficient loads.
Cork Airport is also due to welcome its first transatlantic route in May 2016, but so far details or schedules have not been published due to a delay in issuing a foreign carrier permit to the operator (see below).
As well as the fantastic choice of new routes, there will also be extra capacity across some of the most popular routes from the region. Aer Lingus announced additional capacity on its Paris, Faro, Barcelona, Palma and Tenerife services.
Ryanair also announced increased capacity on its Faro, Reus and Bordeaux services, while Aer Lingus Regional, operated by Stobart Air, has increased capacity on it Manchester, Glasgow and Newcastle services.
Pressure mounts to secure the first transatlantic flights from Cork
A high-level delegation, which included Kevin Toland, the chief executive of the daa, Niall McCarthy, the head of Cork Airport, Dermot McCarthy, a flight operation inspector with the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), Chief Executive of Cork Chamber Conor Healy and other officials, met the US ambassador to Ireland, Kevin O’Malley on 21st January 2016, to discuss the delays by the US Department of Transportation (DoT) in issuing a foreign carrier permit to Irish airline, Norwegian Air International (NAI), which plans to launch a Cork to Boston service in May. The airline also hopes to launch a Cork-to-New York service in 2017.
Mr. Healy described the meeting as “positive” adding that the ambassador had listened to their concerns; is aware of how important the new flights are; and understands the timelines involved. “He has committed to bring those points back to the Department of Transport in Washington,” he added.
On 25th September, Norwegian’s Irish subsidiary, NAI, part of the Norwegian Air Group, announced plans to operate the Cork-Boston service with 4-5 flights per week, followed by the Cork-New York service and a Cork-Barcelona service from May 2016.
The new routes will be operated by the Irish subsidiary which was licenced as an Irish airline in February 2014. The airline planned to operate transatlantic services from a number of different European countries and in line with the EU-US Open Skies Agreement it applied to the US Department of Transportation for the necessary permission. However, the airline has been unable to operate such services because to date the US Department of Transportation has not made a decision on the airline’s application.
In a reply to Deputy Michael McGrath (FF), the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Paschal Donohoe said he “was delighted to welcome NAI’s announcement last September that it planned to launch transatlantic services from Cork in 2016” adding that “The Irish Government’s position has been clear from the outset. NAI is an EU airline licenced by the Irish aviation authorities in full compliance with EU law. As such it should be allowed to avail of the rights available to EU airlines under the EU-US Open Skies Agreement. I and my predecessor Minister Varadkar both wrote to the US Secretary for Transportation clearly outlining Ireland’s position. The Government continues to actively put forward its position to the US administration at appropriate opportunities”.
He went on “The European Commission’s position is that the delay by the US authorities in granting NAI its permit is a breach of the EU-US Open Skies Agreement. I discussed the matter with the EU Transport Commissioner in December and my latest understanding is that the European Commission is considering the measures necessary to initiate arbitration under the Agreement in order to resolve the dispute”.
“It will be very disappointing if such services are delayed because of this delay on the US side, particularly since the Open Skies Agreement was in part designed to encourage new routes from airports such as Cork that have not previously had transatlantic services” he concluded.
Notwithstanding the Minister’s comments, Mr Healy called on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to intervene: “I welcomed his comments that he supports the efforts of the transport minister to resolve this issue, but the Taoiseach needs to intervene personally at this stage.” He welcomed efforts by Ireland South MEP Deirdre Clune, who is meeting European Commission officials next week to discuss the issue; but he called on Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton, Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan, and other elected public representatives to intervene.
NAI’s application is now the longest pending application of its kind and a decision is needed immediately to ensure the service begins as planned in May.
Cork Airport to change its runway designation numbers
The runway designator is made up of a two digit number displayed at each side of the runway, which shows its magnetic heading nearest the full 10 degrees.
The main runways at Cork Airport have been numbered as 17/35 since 1961 and the drifting of the Earth’s magnetic poles has shifted the runways’ magnetic headings, which now stand at 164°M and 344°M, respectively.
The numbers are required to change in April 2016 in order to remain safety compliant and licenced by the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA).
Speaking about the change Ciaran Carton, General Manager of Operators at Cork Airport said: “This is an unusual occurrence for Cork Airport as an airport runway number only changes approximately once in every 50 years. The different runway numbers are crucial for pilots during take-off, landing and taxiing.
“There will also be an alteration of software systems, new airfield mapping and a change in communications with private and commercial pilots. Additionally, we will be replacing the taxiway signage and painting new designation numbers on runway thresholds.”
He added: “It should be noted that the change in runway designator numbers will have no effect on aircraft movements. The next change isn’t anticipated until 2066 – in 50 years’ time.”