Business

Get flying for business 'will boost economy by £1bn'

Matthew Hall, chief executive of Belfast City Airport

A SWIFT return of business air travel would see the north's economy benefit from an additional £1 billion, according to a report commissioned by London City Airport.

Nearly two thirds (64 per cent) of business leaders in Northern Ireland have cited air travel as 'essential' to facilitate face-to-face business.

And the report points to a rapid resurgence in business air travel, with 73 per cent of those interviewed as part of the report, published by WPI Economics, say they expect their companies to fly more for business purposes within the next two years.

“The report has revealed the dependence business leaders place on air travel to and from Northern Ireland, and this is reflected in the increasing demand we are seeing from corporates,” according to Matthew Hall, chief executive at George Best Belfast City Airport, which pre-Covid had the second highest proportional share of business travellers in the UK.

City Airport is currently facilitating approximately 65 per cent of pre-pandemic passenger volumes and expects this to be at 100 per cent by year end.

Business-related aviation activity totalled £1 billion in Northern Ireland in 2019, and within the report WPI Economics compared a slow return to business travel compared to a speedy return and found that the quick return scenario would boost the UK economy by as much as £17.5 billion between now and 2030, which would equate to an extra £1bn for the north's economy.

Mr Hall added: “This report has revealed the dependence business leaders place on air travel to and from Northern Ireland, and this is reflected in the increasing demand we are seeing from corporates.

“Our airline partners are gradually increasing capacity and frequency to ensure flexibility and convenience to business passengers. To that end, we will facilitate up to 15 daily services to London this summer and with hub access through Heathrow, Amsterdam, Birmingham and Manchester, business passengers can connect to a global network.

“Despite a surge in virtual communication throughout the pandemic, technology is now being used to complement rather than replace face to face interaction, which 64 per cent of local business leaders stated as crucial.

“The economic benefits of a speedy return to travel are undeniable, potentially amounting to an additional £1bn for the Northern Irish economy.”

Belfast Chamber chief executive Simon Hamilton said “Being located on an island off an island, and in the absence of a UK-wide rail network, air connectivity to and from Northern Ireland is crucial as an economic enabler.

“The return of business air travel will be key to the wider economic prosperity of the region whilst supporting and creating thousands of jobs.

“So it's no surprise almost two thirds of local business leaders view air travel as essential to their business and is why building on the great work of the team at Belfast City Airport in establishing new connections is so central to the future economic success of our city and wider region.”

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