Ireland set for tourism boost thanks to 10pc increase in seat capacity on transatlantic routes
IRELAND is set for a US tourism bonanza thanks to a 10 per cent increase in seat capacity on transatlantic routes and the arrival on the market of low-cost operators including Wow and Norwegian Airlines.
Cork Airport celebrated the culmination of a 25 year dream today with the launch of transatlantic services.
Ireland's second city will now be linked to the United States with a dedicated Wow airlines service via Reykjavik in Iceland.
Cork Airport's Managing Director, Niall McCarthy, said it was an historic day - with a direct transatlantic route also scheduled to be launched in July by Norwegian Airlines.
The first Wow flight arrived at Cork and with almost 50pc of arriving passengers being US citizens.
They were greeted by a special party in the terminal building led by Deputy Lord Mayor Councillor Joe Kavanagh and Cork County Mayor Councillor Seamas McGrath.
"We are delighted to welcome WOW to Cork, it is fantastic to see yet another new route take off ahead of the busy summer season," Mr McCarthy said.
Critically, both WOW and Norwegian Airlines are now offering return flights to the US from €300.
Norwegian will launch a Cork-Boston service, operated via Providence in Rhode Island, from July.
Dublin and Shannon will both enjoy Norwegian services to New York (Stewart Airport) and Boston.
Those services will also enjoy the benefit of immigration pre-clearance at Shannon and Dublin.
Tourism Ireland boss Niall Gibbons confirmed the North American market will be hugely important for Ireland this year.
He stressed that Ireland will target spending growth with visitors to Ireland in 2017 expected to stay longer and spend more compared to visitors in 2007.
“The best prospects for growth are across North America. We will see a growth of at least 10pc in seat numbers so that offers great prospects,” he said.
“Aer Lingus alone will have two and a half million seats across the North Atlantic. We are also expanding advertising across Germany and France next year.”
Ireland enjoyed growth in visitor numbers of 10pc in 2016 – but that is expected to fall to 1pc growth this year due to Brexit and other economic factors.
However, Ireland's image as a safe holiday destination, coupled with increased seat capacity and airfare competition, is expected to lead to record US visitor numbers this summer.
Norwegian is meanwhile hoping to use a new generation of high-efficiency aircraft such as the Boeing 737-MAX to offer exceptionally low fares on its direct Irish-US routes.
Norwegian also hopes to keep fares low thanks to its high load factors with its flights operating on average to 95pc capacity.