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*Photograph: Joe Buckley

Shannon Airport recorded a 79 percent decrease in passengers last year following the “devastating impact” of COVID-19 on the aviation sector.

A drop of 1.37 million passengers was witnessed in 2020 at Shannon Airport, just over 352,000 people used the Airport last year in what was a 79 percent drop in traffic.

Collapsing numbers were also experienced at sites operated by Shannon Heritage including Bunratty Castle & Folk Park, Malahide Castle and King John’s Castle. Knappogue Castle and Craggaunowen have remained shut since March.

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Management say that Shannon Heritage are “heavily reliant on international visitors”. The sites recorded over 302,000 visitors, a reduction almost 69% on 2019, which saw 963,000 visitors.

Prior to COVID-19, the activities of Shannon Group supported over 46,000 jobs, generated an economic impact of €3.6 billion per year and contributed €1.1 billion in Exchequer returns

CEO of Shannon Group, Mary Considine has said it remains committed to restoring air services to Shannon Airport and visitor numbers to its heritage sites as soon as the aviation and tourism sectors reopen. “COVID-19 had a devastating impact on two of our three business operations, but with the right supports, the foundations for recovery exist within Shannon Group, namely our improved core airport infrastructure, vibrant property portfolio, strong tourism offering and vibrant aviation cluster”.

Ryanair’s decision to reopen its Shannon base and operate fourteen routes for the upcoming summer provides hope, she said but acknowledged that the “recovery will be slow, rebuilding will take time, but we will get there. Crucial to recovery will be the lifting of global travel restrictions once it is safe to do so. Also vital is the accelerated and successful rollout of the national vaccination programme”.

Delivery on a property development strategy continued at Shannon Free Zone, Mary referenced as the property business remained strong within the Group.

She detailed that Shannon Group has delivered 1 million sq ft of commercial property solutions at Shannon Free Zone and the Shannon Airport campus since 2015. The latest project, a development of three advanced manufacturing and logistics facilities totalling 148,000 sq ft on a 12-acre site in the Shannon Free Zone is now complete. US/UK based clinical-stage gene therapy company MeiraGTx have taken two of these buildings and are currently undertaking a significant fit-out.

Development of two new advanced manufacturing and logistics facilities totalling 100,000 sq ft and the upgrade of two existing units in the Zone for small office and warehouse accommodation continues. In addition, planning has been secured for a new 4 storey 58,000 sq ft office block beside Rineanna House at Shannon Free Zone.

“Shannon is resilient, our people are resilient. We have come through many crises in the past and we got through them by preparing and planning for the future. How we manage through this storm is equally important and we are determined and focused on navigating our way through,” the CEO concluded.

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