Belfast Telegraph

Business View: Messi can help us score with Turkish air link-up

By Margaret Canning

Business leaders from around Northern Ireland were given lessons in export, innovation and leadership by the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry yesterday.

Delegates at the latest of the Chamber's Growing Something Brilliant series of events heard from Sean O'Driscoll, chairman and chief executive of Glen Dimplex, and Iain Gray, chief executive of the Technology Strategy Board.

Speaking afterwards, Mark Nodder, the president of the Northern Ireland Chamber, said: "Our members told us that they still have issues when trying to access finance and find employees with the necessary skills to drive their business forward.

"They also face a number of barriers to exporting including knowledge gaps of the socio, legal and cultural issues faced by new exporters."

Of course, Mr Nodder is a storied exporter himself as the managing director of WrightBus, one of Northern Ireland's biggest success stories.

WrightBus has scored big export success stories as far away as Singapore and China, as well as scoring significant external sales in London.

And while the chamber was holding its event, efforts were being made to place another piece of the jigsaw which makes up export success.

Belfast International Airport is making strenuous efforts to secure an air link with Istanbul, Turkey.

It's a celebrated tourist destination in itself, but the real value of Istanbul lies in the Herculean efforts of Turkish Airlines to make the airport a major international hub and springboard to the Middle East. Istanbul's Ataturk Airport wants to be a big player and a regional hub with the pulling power of Heathrow.

Securing a link with Northern Ireland would benefit it a great deal, and the dynamic leadership of Turkish Airlines has already forged connections to Birmingham, Manchester and Dublin.

Their international outlook has been boosted by recruiting sporting stars Lionel Messi and Kobe Bryant as ambassadors for the airline.

But arguably, it's Northern Ireland that would gain even more if the air link could be secured.

Our businesses are constantly being urged to export, and there's no question that our biggest companies are doing well because they are so committed to export and looking far beyond these shores.

More convenient links with the Middle East would help them in their aim – but it's clear that securing new routes requires a joined-up effort from airports, airlines and administrations.

Plus the spruced-up Windsor Park, Casement and Ravenhill could be an added draw for anyone travelling from Istanbul, not to mention Mr Messi....

Belfast Telegraph