THE arrivals hall at Shannon Airport was practically deserted yesterday but all along the western seaboard people desperately hope that picture is about to change.
Businesses across the region are fully behind an independent airport following a major decline in passenger numbers since 2008.
Coach operator PJ Keogh and Limerick hotelier Sean Lally said they need Shannon Airport to be successful if there is to be any increase in employment and tourism.
Mr Keogh oversees PK Executive Travel, which has a fleet of 20 vehicles ranging from limousines to 50-seater buses.
The company began in 1998 from his home in Clarecastle with one bus and has since moved to the airport where 25 employees transport visitors on golf tours or to popular tourist destinations.
At the peak of the boom, 3.6m passengers passed through Shannon annually and Mr Keogh's company ran three shuttle buses to overflow car parks up to 20 hours a day.
"I had 45 people employed during 2007 and '08. There were all jobs here dependent on the airport.
"The recession hit and it has been horrendous since then," he recalled.
"The airport is the lifeblood of industry in the region. It facilitates so much," Mr Keogh said.
"Everybody benefits from this. We want the west of the country to be thought about and are hopeful for 2013.
"Forget about the recession – it is time for action now."
Sean Lally, who is general manager of the Strand Hotel in Limerick said it was "a fantastic day for the west of Ireland.
"It will be a fantastic boost in terms of tourists, jobs and developing the subsidiary industries."
"We will put our shoulder to the wheel now and get out to the international markets to bring tourists to the region," Mr Lally added.