Gardiner Celebrates First Ever Direct Air Route Between Belfast and New York

Enterprise Minister, Barry Gardiner MP, today welcomed the announcement of the first ever direct air route between Belfast and New York.

Enterprise Minister, Barry Gardiner MP, today welcomed the announcement of the first ever direct air route between Belfast and New York.

The new route will be operated by Continental Airlines between Belfast International Airport and New York’s Newark Airport and is due to become operational by June 2005. The route has been secured as a result of a combined investment by Air Route Development (NI) Ltd (a subsidiary of Invest NI), Belfast International Airport Ltd and Continental Airlines.

Speaking at today’s announcement in Belfast, Mr Gardiner said: “The impact of a direct air route between Belfast and the financial capital of the world’s biggest, most influential economy cannot be understated. Continental Airlines and Belfast International Airport are to be congratulated for this venture. This service will provide an essential competitive edge for Northern Ireland’s businesses in developing closer links with international markets. Anticipated savings on journey times and fares will benefit business travellers and tourists alike.

“Improved air access is a strategic priority area for economic development in Northern Ireland, which is why Air Route Development Ltd was established just over a year ago. This is the fifth new route to be secured under the scheme and demonstrates continuing confidence in Northern Ireland as a rewarding and profitable location in which to do business.”

Leslie Morrison, Chief Executive of Invest Northern Ireland, said: “North America is a key export market for local manufacturing companies, accounting for 22% of total NI manufacturing exports – valued in the region of $1.6bn. New York is also the American financial centre with many of the international banks and financial institutions located there. This new route will not only provide direct and quicker access to New York, but one stop access to connecting destinations in North and South America.”

The Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB) and Tourism Ireland Ltd worked alongside Invest NI and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment to help secure the new route.

Alan Clarke, Chief Executive of NITB, said: “Enhanced air access is vital for our growing tourism industry. In 2003, 94,000 people from North America visited Northern Ireland for both business and holiday purposes, with business related visitors the fastest growing segment. Direct access from New York will help ensure this number continues to grow.”

Paul O’Toole, Chief Executive of Tourism Ireland said: “The Tourism Ireland team in New York has been working closely with Continental Airlines in support of the case for the new air service to Belfast. Tourism Ireland will be implementing marketing programmes with Continental Airlines to support the new route and to maximise interest in Northern Ireland as a tourist destination.

“The new direct transatlantic air service will provide a significant boost in US visitor numbers as well as substantial economic benefits. US visitors tend to stay longer and spend more than other overseas visitors – particularly on shopping, sightseeing, entertainment and internal transport.”