Regardless of the positive spin within the Prestwick Ryanair press release the loss of the Prestwick Stansted route is yet another major hit on tourism to Ayrshire and business development in South West Scotland in general and even Glasgow's own tourism marketplace. Prestwick has now lost the Swedish, Germand and English marketplaces in the past eighteen months and yet it brings no comment from tourism bodies, no comment from government agencies and little comment from local organisations.
The concept of new route development which is being pursued so heavily through Edinburgh at the moment is quite clearly just causing displacement. A new route from Edinburgh means another lost to Prestwick. Creative solutions for this airport with its unrivalled road and rail connections are now going to be required as the Ryanair gravy train has stopped rolling.
The "all the eggs in one Ryanair basket" market strategy has come to an end. A worrying time for the airport now. Seriously new ideas required to give it a future.
So at what point are we allowed to actually use the words "Prestwick" and "Crisis" in the same sentence without us being categorised as pessimistic and doom mongering as we were four years ago when Prestwick moved their first route through Edinburgh airport. It was a logical process that once there was a single route that more would follow, it is not with hindsight and it didn't at the time require a lot of foresight but there was no fight, there was no strategic response, there was no support (sought) from government nor government agencies.
The loss of access to the south east of England is important; the surprise perhaps is that the Dublin route remains but that is in part perhaps less to do with profitability and passenger numbers but the convenient access from Ryanair Dublin head office to the maintenance facility at Prestwick. Yeah I know how cynical of me.
This is not the fault of Ryanair; who should be surprised that they have no affinity to Prestwick. What is criminal however is that there has been nothing done about trying to counter this. Let's stop wasting public money on new websites, on cross competing festivals and events on spurious and wasteful tourism initiatives and branding exercises and concentrate on the real and threatening demise on our access routes into the area and region.
Ten years ago we helped Ayrshire Hotels Association design a new brochure on a wave of enthusiasm and confidence. "Why Ayrshire?" it asked... "Because You Can..." was the answer. New routes from Stansted, Dublin, Belfast, Donegal, Sweden talked about. Ferry routes on the new Seacat into Troon new routes into Cairnryan and Stranrear of faster ferries. The access however was taken for granted and we reverted to insularity and a lack of "destination marketing" as it is now so handily called.
With many businesses in Ayrshire already being at the margins, increased fuel costs and decreased route access will undoubtedly rationalise the provision further. It may not be a bad thing although not many will agree with that statement. This is not about the loss of just one route, it has been a speedy decline in incoming traffic over the past four years. Economy and nature being compounded by a strategy of pushing more and more flights through Edinburgh. Is it the correct strategy? Who knows but you can't help feel that it hasn't been a fair fight and that in the end we may regret that the underdog was not given a little more support in the early rounds from the referees.