The Shannon Group which runs the airport, a number of heritage sites and a property portfolio recorded a loss of €28.2 million last year as passenger figures and visitor numbers to the Mid West airport and region collapsed because of the Covid pandemic.

Its annual report released this afternoon showed there were just 352,000 passengers last year, a 79% decrease on 2019, and a 92% reduction over the period April to December last year.

There was also a collapse in visitors across its portfolio of heritage attractions, including Bunratty castle and folk park, and King Johns Castle in Limerick which are heavily reliant on international visitors. The sites recorded 302,000 visitors in 2020, a drop of 69% on 2019.

Mary Considine CEO of the Shannon group said "These declines reflect the devastating impact of Covid-19 and were particularly disappointing given the optimism with which we embarked on 2020, forecasting growth for each of our Group businesses. We had secured new routes for the Airport, were continuing our strong property development strategy and anticipating growth at our heritage sites. Unfortunately, instead we found ourselves facing an unprecedented crisis which resulted in the Group recording a loss for the year of €28.2 million compared to a profit in 2019 of €21.6 million.

"Government support through the provision of capital funding under the Covid-19 Regional State Airports Programme is a welcome contribution towards the overall cost of a range of critical safety and security projects to futureproof the Airport," she added.

"We know the importance of air connectivity in supporting tourism, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and indigenous investment in our region and along the West Coast and the need to restore air services for these sectors is crucial.

"We appreciate the range of Government supports Shannon Group has received since the onset of the pandemic and we will continue to advocate the benefits of putting in place a multi-year funding arrangement, providing capital and operational funding for State-owned regional airports, support packages for airlines for route development, along with an increase in route marketing funds available to Tourism Ireland which will be critical to the economic recovery of the regions," she said.

Shannon Group's property business performed strongly during 2020.

The Group continued to deliver on its property development strategy which has seen it invest over €130 million and deliver 1 million sq ft of commercial property solutions across the Shannon Campus at Shannon Free Zone and Shannon Airport since 2015.

The 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.

The US/UK based clinical-stage gene therapy company MeiraGTx are currently undertaking a fit out in the two buildings they have secured thee.

Further strategic developments are planned for the Shannon Campus in 2021.

The next phase of its property portfolio development strategy will see the delivery of a new 40,000 sq ft R&D high bay technology unit, the redevelopment of two existing buildings as multi-purpose units and small office suites, as well as advancing a planning application for the development of a 60,000 sq ft warehousing facility.