Yep. It's my favourite rant. Low-Cost Airlines and the future of Malta as a Travel Destination (note I do not just use the term Tourist Destination). In order to understand what triggered me off today, let's go to a couple of news items that appeared this week in Hibernia and Eire.
First Up...Scotland Calling.
Here's what The Scotsman had to say recently:
Ryanair study to back up Ayrshire tourism bid
A Scottish Enterprise Ayrshire study into the economic benefits of Ryanair passengers travelling to Scotland via Prestwick Airport is to be used for a major tourism bid (The Herald). The research claims that the flights last year generated £140 million for the Scottish economy, with passengers spending £294 on average during their stay. The study will be used as part of wider calls for more investment in Ayrshire to transform the region into a major tourism hub. Evelyn McCann, Scottish Enterprise Ayrshire’s chief executive, said: “This latest study not only demonstrates how important Prestwick Airport is to the Scottish and local economy, particularly in terms of spend by visitors and jobs created, but it also demonstrates that Prestwick is the key to Ayrshire’s future prosperity.” The proposals, which will be made public in March 2007, will look to bring tourists to the west coast for golfing, sailing and the Robert Burns experience. Ryanair has five planes based at the airport, travelling between France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Ireland and Scandinavia.
The news did not fall on deaf ears. Even government mouthpiece MaltaRightNow picked on the news item:
L-istudju wera wkoll li s-sena l-oħra, aktar minn 1.1 miljun passiġġier għaddew minn Prestwick fuq is-17-il rotta tar-Ryanair. Dan juri li r-rotta ta' Ayrshire hi sinifikanti u qed tkompli tikber. L-operat tat-titjiriet tar-Ryanair jipprovdi bejn 385 u 542 impjieg fir-reġjun ta' Ayrshire. L-istudju żvela wkoll li t-titjiriet tar-Ryanair taw spinta ta' Stg140 miljun lill-Iskozja, u li din hi aktar mid-doppju għall-perjodu 2002-2003.
Then there's the Irish. That's Eire - home of Ryanair.
We learn about how the Irish government is tackling the Low-Cost Airline market with regard to its flag carrier Aer Lingus (that's the Irish Air Malta). From your kind BBC correspondent:
The Irish government has agreed in principle to sell a majority stake in the national airline Aer Lingus to help fund its future expansion. Ireland's transport minister announced the plan on Wednesday while confirming that the state would retain a "significant" minority holding. Aer Lingus has recovered from near bankruptcy in 2002 by reinventing itself as a low-cost operator. It has axed 2,000 jobs, 30% of its workforce, since 2001.
"This decision allows Aer Lingus to secure funding for new aircraft and in turn to compete and win new routes," Mr Cullen said. "Today's decision ensures that for the first time, there will be investment for growth rather than just short-term funding to help in a time of crisis." The government currently owns 85% of the airline, with staff controlling the remaining 15%.
Aer Lingus has gone head to head with budget airlines such as Ryanair in recent years, slashing its prices in order to win new business. The airline's profitability has improved but it suffered a serious blow earlier this year when its senior management quit. Former chief executive Willie Walsh was subsequently appointed boss of British Airways.
So out there in the real world where competition is real, governments are rational and normality rules we have regions benefitting heavily from Ryanair transport and nations rationalising their heavily subsidised flag-carriers.
Et Brand Malta?
Ah we will stick to Luton, Mulhouse and Pisa while heavily subsidised Air Malta does the rest.