The catastrophic impact of the pandemic on global aviation is reflected in passenger numbers at Shannon Airport which recorded a decrease of 1.37 million people in 2020, a 79% decrease on the previous year.

Just over 352,000 people flew in and out of the airport last year.

Covid-19 has had a devastating effect on two of Shannon Group's three business operations.

The Group's heritage sites saw a collapse in visitor numbers across its portfolio of attractions, which are heavily reliant on international visitors.

The sites recorded over 302,000 visitors, a reduction almost 69% on 2019, which saw 963,000 visitors.

Mary Considine, CEO of Shannon Group, reaffirmed its commitment to restoring air services to Shannon Airport and visitor numbers to its heritage sites as soon as the aviation and tourism sectors reopen.

"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," she said.

"With Ryanair set to reopen its base and operate 14 new routes from Shannon for Summer ’21 there are green shoots, but we recognise that recovery will be slow, rebuilding will take time, but we will get there," she added.

Mary Considine, Shannon Group CEO

Ms Considine said that 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. The speed at which vaccines can be rolled out nationally and internationally is directly linked to our economic recovery, she added.

Prior to the pandemic, Shannon Group’s activities supported over 46,000 jobs, generated an economic impact of €3.6 billion a year and contributed €1.1 billion in Exchequer returns.

Ms Considine said the group welcomed the commitment in the Programme for Government to deliver the capital programmes required to support services and ensure safety at state airports. 

"While our aviation and tourism businesses suffered as a result of Covid-19, it wasn’t all bad news for Shannon Group. Our property business remained strong and we were able to continue to deliver on our property development strategy at Shannon Free Zone."

The Group continued expansion plans which have seen them deliver 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.

There was further good news with a US cybersecurity management company exida, establishing a European Centre of Excellence at Shannon Free Zone with 25 jobs to be created over the next five years.

2020 also saw the establishment the Future Mobility Campus Ireland research hub in the Shannon Free Zone.

The Campus is Ireland’s first test bed for Future Mobility and will provide a unique real world setting to research and develop future mobility technologies. FMCI and its partners, which includes Shannon Group, are already seeing value in the collaboration within this growing eco-system including Start-Ups, SME’s and multinational companies.

It is proposed to develop 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.

In addition, the team have secured planning for a new 4-storey 58,000 sq ft office block beside Rineanna House at Shannon Free Zone. These developments will provide ready to go solutions for new companies locating into Shannon.

"We have seen how the regeneration work we are doing at Shannon Free Zone is breathing new life into the region. It has stimulated FDI and indigenous investment, creating jobs for our young people," Ms Considine said.