By Graham Keddie, Managing Director, Belfast International Airport
I haven’t had a week as eventful as this in quite some time.
It began with Routes Europe, with Belfast and Northern Ireland front and centre in an all-out charm offensive. Twelve/thirteen hundred delegates filled the Waterfront Hall, many of them first-time visitors to ‘our wee country’.
The representatives of hundreds of airlines, airports and tourism bodies from all over the Continent were well impressed. Our stand in the hall was a favourite port of call where we renewed contacts made previously and developed new ones.
Throughout, the goal was to persuade our guests that Northern Ireland was good for business and that, in the case of Belfast International Airport, they wouldn’t find a more willing or enthusiastic partner.
We have to build connectivity if we’re to develop valuable in-bound tourism trade. We must have more direct routes from high-spending tourism markets such as Germany and Scandinavia. We gave a select view, a bird’s eye view, from two helicopters of our major tourist attractions along the Antrim coast. They sampled Bushmills, saw the Giant’s Causeway and the stunning coastline and enjoyed our hospitality in the Dark Horse in Belfast’s vibrant Cathedral Quarter.
In the middle of feverish activity, one of our airlines, Jet2, announced eight new routes, a fourth-based aircraft and fifty new jobs for summer 2018.
We rounded off a hectic week by hosting the inaugural meeting of the South Antrim Chamber of Commerce which is the initiative of Danny Kinahan MP. Twenty local industries and businesses attended and backed the venture.
Our first task will be to respond to an economic development consultation from Antrim and Newtownabbey Council which will identify weaknesses and how they can be overcome. Infrastructure, namely our approach roads, will be high on our particular agenda. Frankly, they are a disgrace and as we continue to grow, the problem will only worsen.
There was hardly time to take breath during the week. We’re chasing new business leads from Routes but, by their very nature, these things take time. We’re upbeat and optimistic that more good news will be generated.