The decision by Delta Airlines to reinstate their Shannon – New York route starting this weekend – is very welcome

The airlines will fly four times a week during the summer period. The reinstatement of this route is being driven by passenger demand from the US.

Also announced this week is the news that Continental will commence a second daily service on its Shannon –Newark route from today.

Aer Lingus needs to match the ambition of overseas airlines when it come to transatlantic routes from Shannon.

I welcome the announcement from both these airlines that their routes are to be reinstated following a very difficult period for all in the tourism and airline industry.

We know that the US economy is showing tentative signs of recovery and hopefully now we can benefit from increased travel from American visitors to this region.

Notwithstanding this, there are still huge challenges facing Shannon Airport and the mid-west as a whole. There is huge uncertainty surrounding the ongoing commitment Aer Lingus has towards transatlantic routes out of Shannon. They have curtailed some services and made no concrete guarantees towards that aspect of their business beyond the summer months. And we know from experience that the government won’t protect the interests of the region if push comes to shove.

It is clear now that Shannon must develop and broaden its range of business, including capitalising from US Border and Customs pre clearance and communicating the strengths and advantages of this facility internationally.

The airport has many strengths, yet communicating the positives of the facility has been a major failing of this government. A €53 million post open skies marketing budget was promised for this region, which was later reduced to a meagre €6 million for the entire western seaboard.

The promise of a much needed rail spur from Limerick to Shannon and onto Ennis, has seemingly been shelved by government. This is, I believe a major error at a time when we should be preparing our infrastructure for the end of global recession.

Denis Brosnan, Chairman of the Mid West Taskforce, outlined the key role Shannon could play in revitalising the region, through the establishment of a major international cargo hub at Shannon. Since his interim report, no progress has been made on this facility. A several million euro investment is all that it would require to make this facility a reality, yet the government continues to drag its heels on this.

So real challenges exist for this region. The restoration of the Delta winter series is a boost for the economy here locally, but we must now build on this with imaginative and ambitious marketing and promotion campaigns.

Ireland can no longer rest on its laurels and expect tourist to come flocking back to our shores. They must be attracted here and government has a role to play in this. Every support must be given to the likes of Delta and Continental as they maintain key access from the region to the US.