Belfast Telegraph

Belfast airport chiefs Poland bound attract new tourist routes

By John Mulgrew

Belfast airport bosses are jetting into Poland this week in a bid to attract key new tourist and business routes - including a fresh German link - to Northern Ireland.

Routes Europe - which will be held in Belfast next year - will see 100 airlines and around 1,200 aviation experts from across the globe, meet in Krakow.

And both Belfast International and Belfast City airports will be trying to bring in fresh sun routes and open up new business links with the rest of Europe, and potentially further afield.

Katy Best, commercial and marketing director for Belfast City Airport - who is making the trip to Poland - says she's hopeful of a new route to Germany and summer destinations for next year.

"We will get to meet people of all relevant airlines and airports in Europe," she said.

"Some conversations will be picking up on conversations we would have had over the last years - some meetings would be for the first time.

"You would be hopeful what comes out of it would be scheduled services for summer of 2017.

"We've been very open about what our strategy is, and we want to look beyond the UK network, and look at cities that we don't have in Northern Ireland at the moment.

"That would be key German cities, and the likes of Madrid and Italian connections, and some of the other key business hubs."

She said key German links could include Frankfurt, Dusseldorf or Cologne.

And she stated that Belfast was "under-served" when it came to sun routes.

Belfast International's managing director Graham Keddie will also make the trip this week, which runs for four days, with the event kicking off on Saturday.

"As we continue to develop our route network this event will help us attract new airlines and routes, particularly in advance of the conference coming to Belfast in 2017," he said.

There is also speculation that Belfast International Airport could be getting new direct air link to Dubai.

A spokesman confirmed a delegation from Emirates had met with staff.

As far as new routes go, Belfast City has added a direct flight to Belgium's capital with Brussels Airlines.

But Ms Best says, despite the first flights having to be diverted elsewhere following the terror attack at Brussels Airport last month, the airline remains "committed" to Belfast.

Belfast International secured a massive boost last month when Michael O'Leary's budget airline Ryanair returned to the city after a decade away.

And by the end of 2016, it will be flying to eight routes. These include London Gatwick, Berlin and Milan.

Just last month, Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell announced the latest £4m package for the air route development fund.

Both Belfast airports have benefited from previous funding streams from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment.

But some of those routes it pushed have since ended.

Belfast Telegraph

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