Major economic report on Waterford Airport
- Supports up to 560 jobs
- 85% of south east businesses view direct air access to the South East as important to their operations
- Boosted overseas visitor numbers by 12 per cent between 2004 and 2008
- Saw international throughput of visitors grow by 45 per cent from 2006 to 2009
- Approximately one third of airport users are business travellers – high for a regional airport
- In providing direct air access to the region, Waterford offers time savings – deciding factor for export lead companies to locate in the South East
- Passenger services activity is on a strong upward trend - further route development is a critical factor in continuing growth of tourists to the region
- Growth at the airport is consistent with the goals of the National Spatial Strategy
- The capital investment programme is designed to meet business and tourism needs - offering improved connectivity to inbound tourists and international investors in the future
- Colin Buchanan and Partners finds that the Waterford Airport is key to the economy of the South East region and it set to play a more vital role in promoting business, tourism and the region's economic development in the future
Waterford Airport underpins 560 jobs – major economic report finds
Waterford Airport supports approximately 560 jobs through direct, indirect and induced effects in the regional economy, according to a major report by a leading firm of UK transport economists.
Waterford Airport Economic Impact Assessment by Ryan Emmett and Paul Buchanan of London-based Colin Buchanan and Partners also finds that the Waterford Airport is key to the economy of the South East region and it set to play a more vital role in promoting business, tourism and the region's economic development in the future.
Approximately 52 people are employed directly by Waterford Airport with a further 12 employed in services required on site such as Garda, Customs, etc. There are a further 113 employed by companies based at the airport ranging from based Aer Arann crew to the Coast Guard Search & Rescue team and the Pilot Training College of Ireland, as well as those working in ancillary businesses at the airport.
In total there are 177 jobs directly employed at the airport on-site. The consultants estimate that allowing for spin-off jobs in the wider community; the airport supports an additional 274 jobs through direct spend and a further 283 through tourist and visitor spending that the consultants view as being specific to the airport's existence today, giving an overall level of employment of 560.
Despite the global economic downturn, Waterford Airport is bucking the trend. Total annual international passenger throughput at Waterford has been increasing at a much faster rate than other regional airports over the last four years with overseas visitor trips growing by approximately 12% between 2004 and 2008. The share of visitors based in the UK travelling by air over the same period has also increased from 42% in 2004 to 55% in 2008.
Total annual international passenger throughput at Waterford increased at a much faster rate than other regional airports over the last four years, even taking into account the economic downturn. The overall decline in UK passengers at Waterford was nine per cent in 2009, which is less than most other regional airports.
Buchanans carried out a survey of approximately 700 users of Waterford Airport in October 2009. It showed that 60% of users fly to/from London Luton airport with just under 20% each for Manchester and Birmingham. The main reason for travelling to/from Waterford is for visiting family or friends, accounting for just over 40% of trips with inbound visitor adding significantly to the tourist spend within the region. Business trips are the next main source of journeys, accounting for one third of passengers; while leisure trips account for just under one quarter.
Business trips to and from Ireland’s regional airports generally account for 10-15% of all trips, meaning Waterford’s share is well above average for a public airport of this size. Many of these travellers are frequent users of the airport, with 12% travelling up to and in excess of 10 times a year.
Passengers overwhelmingly choose Waterford Airport for the ease by which the airport can be accessed as their primary reason for using it. This has recently been strengthened by the improved road access and the new River Suir bridge crossing. Other favourable features for passengers are the convenient flight times and uncongested nature of the airport.
The passenger survey suggests that the South East region has developed strong connections with British businesses, with 60% of business travellers coming from UK-based firms mostly in London and South East England but also from other parts of the UK. One fifth of passengers are from US- based firms and just over one-tenth are employed by domestic firms. Swedish businesses account for around half of the 8% of businesses based in Continental Europe represented by survey respondents.
In addition to the passenger survey, the consultants also conducted a web-based survey of 450 businesses in the South East to gauge their views on the importance of Waterford Airport to their operations and the South East region in general. According to Buchanans, businesses are very positive about the role of Waterford Airport in the South East: “Within the first week of issuing our survey we received an unprecedented response of approximately 200 businesses, out of an eventual total of 450. Approximately 85% of these firms view direct air access to the South East as important to their operations and around 9 out of 10 for the region as a whole. Around one-third of airport users are business travellers, which is considerably above that of other regional airports and is underlined by the high frequency of trips made by around 50% of all airport users.”
Three quarters of businesses stated that they would be directly or indirectly affected by the loss of passenger flights. The greatest impact would be in terms of the reduced attractiveness of the region as a place to do business, which was cited by 60% of responses. This was followed by just over half of firms who highlighted the increased time taken to meet customers and suppliers overseas in the absence of direct air access as the second most critical issue.
Nearly 9 out of 10 businesses surveyed believe that air access is very important to businesses looking to invest or expand in the South East region. Overseas destinations feature prominently as a base for clients and suppliers amongst South East businesses. London features just as strongly as Dublin with 72% of businesses highlighting it as a regular market location. In addition approximately 6 out of 10 businesses have dealings in parts of Britain outside London, with a similar proportion regularly doing business in Continental Europe.
An analysis of the sectors in which business travellers work shows that healthcare/ pharmaceutical activities and transport/logistics and engineering activities stand out, and together account for around one third of passengers. The healthcare sector in the region is dominated by overseas companies with manufacturing facilities in the South East and therefore account for a significant level of overseas export earnings for the economy.
Businesses in the South East view increasing access from Waterford Airport to key European hubs very positively, with three quarters of businesses indicating that they would see flights to Amsterdam and Paris Charles De Gaulle as being good for their business. In addition, more than half of those surveyed would view the introduction of flights to Edinburgh as having a positive impact. Approximately three quarters of businesses view their linkages with Great Britain and Europe as expanding over the next 5 to 10 years, higher than Dublin where just over half of businesses see growth.
Overall, the report makes a very strong case for the importance of a developing regional airport and direct access for the economic wellbeing of the South East region. It is clear from the range of stakeholders who were interviewed as part of the study that direct access is a must for business and tourism within the South East which should be built upon. The South East is particularly attractive to foreign investment in terms of the natural environment, uncongested surroundings and cost of living. A number of companies working in pharmaceutical and life sciences sectors have based their activities in the region - these companies require air access to the UK mainland Europe and the US.
According to Buchanans, there is a feeling that the airport, in specifically serving the South East region, is on the verge of becoming a major selling point - once it has an expanded runway that will allow it to take larger aircraft and dramatically open up the destinations which can be served. It is noted that the airport is anxious to recommence its capital funding programme, including runway development, once allocated Government funding can be released.
View the Economic Impact Assessment Report
Launching a major economic report on Waterford Airport are Airport CEO Graham Doyle and General Manager Aidan Power; the report found that 85% of south east businesses view direct air access to the South East as important to their operations – Photograph John Power