This matter has been raised in the House before and I have indicated that Open Skies will be good for Irish tourism, aviation, business links and the economy generally. For Irish airlines, Open Skies will give them access to every city in the US, and enable them to negotiate with different airports to obtain the best commercial deals for new services. The additional access to the US as well as the increased numbers of US tourists into Ireland will greatly benefit Irish tourism, aviation, and business links generally in all parts of the country.
A number of reports (the Brattle Report for the European Commission, the Report of the Tourism Policy Review Group to the Minister of Arts, Sport and Tourism, and the Air Transport Users Council (ATUC) of the Chambers of Commerce of Ireland Report into Open Skies) all support moving to open skies with the US, and emphasise the significant benefits to Ireland when this happens.
The aviation industry has experienced dramatic change in recent years and the future development and growth of all international and regional airports in the State will depend largely on how each airport responds to the new challenges and the extent to which emerging opportunities, such as Open Skies, can be exploited.
If Shannon Airport is to develop as a successful and sustainable business, it is clear that one of the issues that must be addressed in its business plan is the airport's uncompetitive cost base. When that obstacle is overcome the Airport has a real opportunity to develop new markets and to attract the airline customers that it needs for its commercial future, the area's tourism and other industry.
With a view to assisting the airport, and the wider region, to adapt to the proposed new arrangements, my Department is currently finalising an Economic and Tourism Development Plan for Shannon, which was initiated in the context of the ongoing EU/US negotiations on Open Skies. In preparing the Plan, my Department has consulted with the Department of Arts, Sports and Tourism, the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment and the Department of Finance. A liaison group, established by the Mid West Regional Authority, has separately prepared a report on the future development of the Shannon region as an input to the Plan.
I intend to bring the Economic and Tourism Development Plan to fruition in the context of the finalisation of the EU/US Open Skies negotiations, which will include transitional arrangements for Shannon.