By Ed Forry
Even as officials of Tourism Ireland count up the successes of last year’s promotion for “The Gathering Ireland/2013,” the island of Ireland government is gearing up for a new way to encourage North American visitors to put the Emerald Isle into their travel plans. The big tourism push this year centers around the designation of Limerick as Ireland’s “City of Culture Year.” This year alone, the city expects to be the venue for some 200 performances and exhibitions.
Limerick is conveniently located within a half hour drive of Shannon Airport, and a delegation from the airport authority visited Boston last month to develop and enhance local ties between our town and the west of Ireland.
The Irish tourism officials used the inaugural flight of a new daily Aer Lingus service that began early last month. The airline has leased more fuel-efficient Boeing 757s for the Boston/Shannon run, and announced the commencement of “daily, year-round flights for the first time in five years into Shannon, which serves a catchment on transatlantic services that runs from the south right up to the North-West.” Flight time to reach is just over five hours, and the new overnight service enables travelers from Logan to arrive before 6 a.m. local time every day.
Shannon Airport Authority Chairman Rose Hynes led the delegation, and met in Boston City Hall with Mayor Marty Walsh, who, she said, “is hugely supportive of Ireland and, given his own close ties with Galway and understanding of the US investment in the region Shannon serves on transatlantic services, sees the importance of this new daily service from Shannon.
“It says a lot about the mayor’s relationship with the West of Ireland that we were not alone the first Irish delegation he met since his inauguration, but the first international delegation. His election as mayor is an opportunity for the West and South to not just underpin the economic and tourism ties between our two regions, but to grow them.”
Commenting on the importance of the new daily route, Walsh said, “No one needs any introduction to the historical influence of the Irish on this part of America but there is also a very strong economic connection today between here and the West and South coasts of Ireland, which Shannon Airport serves.
“A number of Boston-headquartered multi-national corporations have significant investments in Ireland, which is an important gateway to the very lucrative European market. This daily service to Shannon will support this type of investment and will also be an excellent option for US tourists to fly into this unique and very special part of Ireland.”
Hynes said the service will be key to supporting a number of leading New England multi-nationals across this region, including Boston Scientific, Fidelity Investments, EMC, and Analog Devices. It will also underpin the strong tourism market into the West of Ireland from the Boston and wider New England region. “Boston has the largest concentration of people in any US city of Irish extraction, and one town, Scituate, was identified in the 2011 Census as the United States’ most Irish city, with almost 50 percent of residents there of Irish descent,” she said. “The service is the latest strengthening of connectivity between the US and Shannon, which this year will fly to five US destinations – Boston, New York, Newark, Philadelphia, and Chicago.”
Aer Lingus continues to operate daily Boston flights to Dublin, while several other air carriers also serve Shannon from New York and Newark.