Data findings from Cork Chamber’s biennial business air travel survey, released today, are highly revealing of the critical importance businesses place on a well-serviced International Airport to support and grow business activity. The results of the survey, undertaken in association with Cork Airport, are based on data provided by 325 business owners and senior managers across a spectrum of industries primarily located in the Cork region (93%), almost a fifth of whom employ in excess of 250 employees.
Commenting on the survey findings, Cork Chamber CEO, Conor Healy stated ‘Findings highlight the critical importance businesses attach to Cork Airport and the high correlation they attribute to the performance of the Airport and the economic well-being of the Cork Gateway. The fact that 16% of businesses use the air travel services of Cork Airport on at least a weekly basis, 45% on at least a monthly basis and almost four of every five businesses (79%) on at a least a quarterly basis is testament to the importance of Cork Airport for businesses operating in the Cork region. More than three quarters of businesses (78%) believe that the level of direct air services to/from Cork Airport is a key determinant for businesses when deciding to locate or expand within the region.
Positively, data indicates a marginal increase in confidence regarding business travel in the next eighteen months since the Chamber’s preceding business air travel survey in 2010. While the number of businesses who expect their air travel to remain ‘at about the same levels’ is consistent with the 2010 data at 52%, almost 30% of business expect their air travel to increase in 2012 while the number of businesses expecting to travel less has fallen by more than 10%, to 7% of businesses in the same time frame.’
Mr. Healy continued, ‘Importantly, data findings provide strong evidence of the extensive uptake of air travel services by businesses and reinforce the demand for a large number of existing UK and European air-routes to/from Cork Airport, particularly those serving the top ten most frequented business destinations of London Heathrow (20%), Amsterdam Schiphol (13%), London Gatwick (8%), London Stansted (8%) and Paris (6%), Birmingham, Manchester, Brussels, Munich and Barcelona and Edinburgh. Aer Lingus emerged as the preferred airline for more than three quarters (76%) of businesses travelling to the UK and 85% of those travelling to Europe for work purposes. Improved frequency and tailoring of flight times to facilitate working-hours business activities was highlighted as important to encourage even greater uptake of these routes for business travel.’
While acknowledging the ongoing efforts of Cork Airport to increase the number of available air-travel routes, Mr. Healy also emphasized the difficulties and constraining impact the absence of particular air-routes has for businesses in the region. ‘The frequency and timing of some of the top ten flights coupled with the high demand for a number of supplementary flights which are currently not available from the Airport led to four in ten businesses (41%) declaring dissatisfaction with the range of routes available. More than half of all indirect travel completed by businesses from Cork Airport is to the United States (57%, primarily to New York, Boston, San Francisco, Chicago and Los Angeles) and a further quarter is to Germany (11.9% to Frankfurt) and is revealing of the critical need to increase frequency and diversity of air travel routes from Cork Airport. The high reliance on London & Amsterdam Schiphol is partly accounted for by the fact that almost six out of ten businesses (59%) rely on these airports for onward connections. The reliance on Airports outside the Cork region to meet a wide range of business air-travel demand has intensified since the withdrawal of the Cork/Dublin route. More than 8 in ten businesses reported travelling between Cork and Dublin for business purposes and two thirds of these travel by road. A significant proportion of businesses emphasized the challenges the lack of an air-connection poses to their business activities and called for the reinstatement of the flight as an essential infrastructural enabler to economic growth in the Cork region.
While the many assets and resources of the Cork region mean it remains an attractive location for businesses, there is, unsurprisingly a high demand for a number of new routes which, if implemented could contribute to higher levels of business activity amongst existing businesses, attract new inward investment and make a significant contribution to economic development and growth in the South of Ireland. Of these routes, the top five most requested are Cork/Dublin (23%), followed by New York (17%), Frankfurt (15%), Boston (11%) and Belfast (5%). Demand for additional new routes is further reinforced by that fact that almost one in two businesses were prepared to pay a premium of between €60 (24%) and €80 (25%) before opting to fly from Dublin/Shannon as an alternative.’
Mr. Healy concluded, ‘The results of the 2012 survey and future projected air travel trends all reinforce the need for increased route development from Cork Airport, increased frequencies and competitive costs to sustain and grow business activity within the South of Ireland. Equally, it is important that existing key routes to the UK and European destinations benefit from a long-term commitment by airlines and that new high demand business routes are adopted to maximise opportunities for those currently engaged in or seeking to develop business in the South of Ireland.’