Cap on passenger numbers at Dublin Airport hinders tourism growth, warns tourism group

Planners’ limit a ‘clear and present danger’ to key industry, council warns

Irish tourism cannot take off while Dublin Airport’s 32 million a year passenger cap remains in place, industry chiefs have warned in a call for its immediate end.

The limit threatens tourism’s prospects and will undermine Government policy for the sector, the Irish Tourism Industry Council (ITIC) warns in a report that it will publish this week.

According to the report, the passenger cap jeopardises efforts to grow Irish tourism to a €15 billion a year business by 2030 from €10 billion annually now.

Called The Importance of Aviation to Irish Tourism: Interdependent, Symbiotic and Critical, the report calculates that nine out of every 10 tourists arrive by air. It states that 75 per cent of the €10 billion a year industry is made up of overseas holidaymakers.


Council chairwoman Elaina Fitzgerald notes that tourism and aviation are closely linked and mutually dependent. “Tourism relies on aviation to bring in visitors and airlines rely on tourism to fill seats,” she said.

ITIC chief executive Eoghan O’Mara Walsh said the Dublin Airport cap was “a clear and present danger to tourism’s prospects”.

He adds that it must be lifted to allow the industry to prosper in the coming years.

Catherine Reilly, managing director of tour operator Brendan Vacations, said that the US market is critical to tourism, and Dublin was the main entry point for those tourists.

“To keep the passenger ceiling in place will do real damage to Irish tourism to say nothing of foreign direct investment and the broader economy,” she warned.

The report states that “planning uncertainty is undoubtedly constraining growth, not only in the short term but will stymie expansion in the medium to longer term as airlines expand and launch new services at other European airports”.

The cap jeopardises efforts to grow Irish tourism to a €15 billion a year business by 2030 from €10 billion annually now, the report says.

The ITIC recommends that the cap be lifted “without delay” and that the Government back maximum use of Cork and Shannon airports.

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Geraldine Enright, general manager of the Cliffs of Moher experience, explains that most of the high-profile attraction’s visitors are from overseas. “Dublin is the main gateway to the island, our regional airports, particularly Shannon and Cork must be backed to reach their full potential,” she said.

Dublin Airport operator, State company DAA, has asked its planning authority, Fingal County Council, to lift the cap to 40 million.

Airlines Aer Lingus and Ryanair want the Government to step in and warn the cap is driving up fares, hitting Irish holidaymakers.

The Irish Aviation Authority, recently limited airlines at Dublin to 14.4 million passengers for the winter to aid DAA in remaining within the planning cap.

The move sparked threats of legal action from Aer Lingus and Ryanair, which maintained that the authority did not have the jurisdiction to take this step. The two airlines are Dublin’s biggest customers, accounting for more than two-thirds of traffic through the airport every year.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O’Halloran covers energy, construction, insolvency, and gaming and betting, among other areas