The committee has a copy of the presentation. I will go through it and pick out its key points, referring to the slides.
The document talks about the context for spatial development and, ultimately, that is what is informing people in the Shannon region and the west of Ireland. The national policy is to see balanced regional development, most recently expressed in the national spatial strategy. Our central argument today is that aviation policy is a critical instrument of economic development. Any policy change in the aviation arena must take account of economic impact.
Our presentation also deals with the concentration of air access into the island of Ireland. The committee will see a map of Ireland with the distribution of passenger numbers to the three Aer Rianta airports at Dublin, Cork and Shannon. The most striking data is that over 80% of European and UK traffic into Ireland comes through Dublin. The equivalent figures for Cork and Shannon range from 7% to 11%. The one area that breaks that trend is the North Atlantic market block, where 44% of passenger traffic to the island of Ireland comes through Shannon and the balance of 66% through Dublin. This is the one area where there is some correlation between the level of access into the country and the level of economic activity into the west of Ireland. In addition, transatlantic business accounts for 32% of Shannon's traffic but just 5% of Dublin's traffic. As transatlantic business is very important, any change in aviation policy must serve to improve that situation rather than disimprove it.
In relation to the concentration of activity into the island of Ireland, what we are currently witnessing is ever-increasing growth on the east coast, most recently re-enforced by the 2002 Census data. This indicates that 53% of the population lives in Leinster and we are getting a magnet effect in the area of tourism, industry, services, population and air services. Our central argument is that air access is a vital instrument which can be used to address that imbalance.
A big issue on everyone's mind at the moment is the bilateral aviation agreement between Ireland and the US, particularly the recent change where the EU Council has given authority to the EU Commission to negotiate an air services agreement with our counterparts in North America. There is much reference to theShannon stopover. What I would like to get across this afternoon is that there is no such thing as the Shannon stopover. Ireland has a dual gateway policy and the current bilateral agreement between Ireland and the US allows any airline serving Shannon to provide non-stop services to Dublin provided there are an equal number of air services to Shannon on a calendar year basis, not a day-by-day basis.
What does this mean for consumers for whom this is all about? If one wishes to fly today from Dublin to North America, one can fly to Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Newark and one does not have to go anywhere near Shannon. One can fly non-stop from Dublin to any of these destinations under the current bilateral agreement. The table on display highlights that the current gateway policy provides choice for consumers. In the case of Baltimore, for example, the service operates through Shannon. However, other airlines such as US Airways fly to Shannon and Dublin, with non-stop services in both locations. In other locations such as Atlanta, Delta will fly a number of days a week through Shannon and a number of other days a week through Dublin. With planning, consumers have choice. Our argument is that the current bilateral policy gives consumers choice, as well as generating economic impact. Currently, with choice, 44% of transatlantic passengers choose to disembark at Shannon.
We have done some research on what has been happening in terms of growth in passenger numbers between the US and countries in Europe over the past ten years or so. According to US data, the fastest growing market for travel over that period between the US and Europe is Ireland. Ireland over the period 1993-2002 has seen growth in passenger numbers from just under one million to 1.5 million. It peaked at 1.9 million in 2000, as did other countries. It has shown a compound annual growth rate over that period of 5.6% compared to the average 3% for all European markets over the period. Interestingly, Ireland, the UK and Spain, who do not have open skies agreements with the US, are in the top five growth markets over that period.
We looked at what has happened where we have open skies agreements with European countries. There are countries in Europe who have an open skies agreements, including Austria, Belgium, Denmark and so on. The experience is that countries who have an open skies agreement with the US generally have one city as the location for transatlantic access. Vienna accounts for 100% of Austria's transatlantic traffic, Brussels for 100% of Belgium's transatlantic traffic and so on. No country has less than 90% of traffic going through one gateway. Irrespective of customer wishes, there is significant concentration of air access in countries where there are open skies policies. Our concern is that the experience in Ireland could be the same.
Looking at the Irish Government's position, it is very clear that the Minister for Transport, Deputy Brennan, shares these concerns, as outlined in his comments to the European Transport Council when it made the recent decision to give the mandate to the EU Commission. We share the Minister's concerns. Our analysis shows that if an open skies policy was to be introduced, effectively, the volume of services throughShannon would reduce from the current 50 per week to approximately seven per week. This is one daily service split between New York and Boston.
I will finish by stating that the priorities for Shannon are as follows, if one can imagine a continuum with the commercial argument and the economic development argument. Our concern is that there is a headlong rush in place to change the current bilateral agreement, driven principally by the commercial arguments. We accept that change is coming through the EU process. However, independent of that, we are concerned that there may be a move to change the bilateral agreement over a period of weeks or during the summer period, driven mainly by commercial arguments. Ultimately, policy change is about priorities. We believe most of the priority at the moment is being given to the commercial arguments and not enough attention is paid to the economic development arguments. The balance needs to be analysed and articulated much more clearly before any policy change is introduced. If it is introduced, it must be done on a planned basis over a transition period, with the economic development agenda very much to the forefront.