Mary Considine, CEO, Shannon Group Plc has said that 2019 has confirmed both the strength and resilience of the Group’s business and reaffirms its importance to the region.
Reflecting on the performance of the Group and its individual businesses across the year, Ms Considine, who was appointed Shannon Group CEO in October 2019, said that Shannon Commercial Properties and Shannon Heritage both recorded strong growth and that while Shannon Airport experienced its first drop in passengers since 2013, it finished the year out on a high with a number of new route announcements that will return it to strong growth in 2020.
A major plus on the aviation, investment and job creation side was that last year 15 new indigenous and overseas aviation businesses located in Shannon, reaffirming again the wider importance of Shannon to the region.
The past twelve months saw Shannon Group forge ahead with its ambitious investment strategy, investing over €33 million on capital projects during the year. These included the delivery of the first aircraft hangar in Ireland in almost 20 years, and the commencement of construction of 150,000 sq ft of new property solutions on a 12 acre site at Shannon Free Zone. This brings total investment across Group companies to over €110 million since its formation in 2014.
The Group’s portfolio of eight visitor attractions operated by Shannon Heritage in counties Clare, Galway, Limerick and Dublin, saw visitor numbers increase by 4%, to 963,285. 2019 also saw the company secure a new visitor attraction, the Casino Model Railway in Malahide, Co. Dublin and officially open a new attraction, Newbridge House and Farm in Co. Dublin, on behalf of Fingal County Council.
Over 85,000 visitors attended an annual calendar of seasonal Easter, Halloween and Christmas events organised at the visitor sites in 2019, a 16% increase on 2018, cementing the company’s position as Ireland’s leading developer of seasonal family fun events.
After six successive years of growth at the Airport, passenger numbers were down by 8% to 1.71 million in 2019 owing, in the main, to the global grounding of the Boeing 737 Max Jet which led to the cancellation of 13 weekly transatlantic services during the peak summer season.
During the year the Group invested over €2.5 million in fire safety measures at the airport, taking delivery of two new state-of-the-art High Reach Extendable Turret (HRET) fire tenders, the first airport in Ireland to do so, and developing a special fire-ground training area. Ten new firefighters were also recruited at the airport.
Commenting on the Group’s end of year results Ms Considine said: “Overall for the Group, it was a positive year. Shannon Commercial Properties continues to power ahead at Shannon Free Zone and last year began construction on 150,000 sq ft of state-of-the-art commercial and industrial space, including a 34,000 sq ft Advance Technology Manufacturing Unit (ATMU) and a 33,000 sq ft office redevelopment for an aviation client at Shannon Free Zone. Shannon Heritage saw its visitor numbers increase again and we see further room for growth there in 2020.
“From a Shannon Airport perspective, the global grounding of the Boeing 737 Max for safety reasons saw us lose 120,000 seats which affected our Norwegian Airlines and Air Canada services to North America. This was a disproportionate hit for Shannon compared to other Irish airports. Last year also saw the ending of Kuwait Airways’ transit flights through Shannon to New York, which we secured in June 2016 as a temporary service until the airline received approval for direct flights into the US.
“However, in totality, the year has illustrated Shannon Airport’s strength and resilience as we were able to close it out with the announcement of three new services to Paris, Barcelona and Vienna. This has left us quite positive about the year ahead as they will help us return to growth again in 2020.
“We will not be complacent, though, and the development of high-quality international air connectivity for the people of our region will continue to be a critical focus for us. To this end we will continue to explore opportunities and ensure our catchment, from the north-west down to the south, is aware of and takes full advantage of the exciting schedule we have across the UK, Europe and the US in 2020. The more our services are used, the more services we get.
“We are very proud of the aviation services cluster in Shannon and it is wonderful to see the aviation community continue to grow. This year alone we have seen 15 new indigenous and overseas aviation businesses locate in Shannon. This is a clear indication that the Shannon aviation brand, which our International Aviation Services Centre (IASC) is endeavouring to promote, is having real impact,” she said.
Ms Considine envisages a year of growth across all the group operations in 2020. “Shannon Group is one of the single biggest and most important growth engines outside the capital region. As a Group, we support 46,500 jobs, generate an economic impact of €3.6 billion per year and contribute €1.1 billion in Exchequer returns. This is a huge contribution to the region, so we are one of the key enablers of balanced regional development on this side of the island. The more we can grow, the more the region grows, which is good not alone for the western half of Ireland but the entire country as we seek to grow our own catchment and, in doing so, relieve pressure on the east coast.”
Shannon Group Chairman Rose Hynes said: “The past 12 months have, from a wider Shannon Group perspective, reaffirmed the contribution the company is making to achieve greater balance in the national economy. Visitor numbers at Shannon Heritage have continued to grow. The investment we have made in new and upgraded property solutions have enabled existing companies to grow employment numbers and attracted new companies to Shannon. Shannon Airport’s challenges arising from the Max Jet issue are well documented but we’ve responded in the way that the airport knows best by accelerating its work with airline partners and securing exciting new services.
“We are confident about the year ahead. The indications across the Group are positive and we look forward to continuing to work with all regional and national stakeholders to ensure that Shannon Group continues to deliver in the regional and national interest.”