ROSE Hynes, the chairman of Shannon Airport, has been named the Limerick Person of the Month for her role in leading the turnaround at the airport since it was made independent in January 2013.
“It is an honour and I really appreciate it. I accept it on behalf of myself and the team at Shannon. It’s a team effort,” said Ms Hynes, at the award presentation at the Clarion Hotel this Wednesday.
Shannon Airport won a number of awards in recent weeks - the European Regions Airline Association awarded them their top accolade for airport achievement just 10 days after a global award for marketing excellence and a few months after they won the Airport of the Year award at the Irish Aviation Awards.
Ms Hynes was also awarded the Media Merit Award at the biennial Press Ball in Limerick.
Ms Hynes and her team in Shannon Group plc have been credited with restarting the region’s ‘engine of growth’ but, having stemmed the decline and bringing the airport to a point of stability, the next step, she says, is tackling the property portfolio which was formerly under the control of State agency Shannon Development. The agency merged with Shannon Group plc, the State company created last month, which inherited the 400-plus commercial buildings and 2,000 acres of land the development body owned across six counties.
It was revealed last week that 57 per cent of those properties are empty.
“That is no surprise – that is the way it has been for the last five years. That’s the challenge, we know what it is. We are going to confront it and take it on,” said Ms Hynes.
“It will require investment and planning. It requires a strong business plan to decide what are you going to do with such a diverse portfolio. A lot of the properties are not fit for current purposes so, therefore, they will have to be demolished.”
It is expected that the first demolition of properties at Shannon will start by year-end.
“We have properties in Shannon, in North Kerry, Limerick and Tipperary. We have some really good properties in Shannon and in Limerick - properties we are proud of and with really good tenants and we intend to build on that.”
Latest Red C research at Shannon shows that Kerry, Clare and Galway top the league table of counties benefiting from transatlantic passengers arriving at the airport.
According to Ms Hynes, some counties will always do better than other counties and it’s up to each of the individual counties to market their area. “We market the entire west of Ireland and the Wild Atlantic Way - we grow the passenger numbers, they come in. They will visit all the counties up and down the west of Ireland and it’s up to each county to go after it,” she noted.
In terms of Shannon Airport going forward and the competition with Cork for the number two spot after Dublin Airport, Ms Hynes says she doesn’t see it as a competition - “Shannon is very much its own airport and in charge of its own destiny”.
“Shannon is the transatlantic airport for the west of Ireland and the Wild Atlantic Way. That puts Shannon in a unique position and that’s nothing to do with Cork. We intend to continue to grow that. We are always planning further routes. When you see us announce a new route or a big win, that comes after weeks and months of discussion and background work.”
Teamwork, she says, is “absolutely crucial” in the day-to-day work at Shannon.
“I pay tribute to Neil Pakey (CEO at Shannon Group) and the team. We put a huge amount of work into engaging with our customers and with our stakeholders and it really pays off.
“For me, marketing and networking is not about hunting, it’s farming - you reap what you sow. It’s about cultivating relationships and I think that’s really paid off.
“We didn’t just fix the marketing, what we actually did was we fixed the product. We made sure we had the product the customers want and then we built the marketing around it. We need to look at things in terms of five years’ time and further.”
On a personal level, Ms Hynes, a mother-of-two, says she has “always been a sucker for a challenge.
“Throughout my whole business life I have always taken on and confronted challenges and I really enjoy a challenge. My most recent business life has been in GPA [Guinness Peat Aviation], where I was a member of senior management for 14 years. We did the impossible many, many times over so I would accept very little as being impossible and I absolutely never take no for an answer,” she stresses.
Her time at GPA, she says, taught her to be persistent and resilient - “to stick at things”.
“Every single moment you are learning. Stick to it - persistence is huge. Everyone gets a knock - you just have to get up and go.”
How does she deal with stress?
“I just kick up a gear,” she smiles.
“I played competitive squash for years with Connacht and then with Munster for a number of years when I moved to Limerick, and I played with Limerick Lawn Tennis Club so I am used to the competitive zone. I enjoy it - that’s me. That’s what I’m like.”
Ms Hynes is married to Michael Walsh and they have two children, Amy and John.
She has been living in Limerick since the late 1980s and thinks the city is “really, really taking off. It is at a very, very interesting stage. Shannon Heritage is a tremendous asset. King John’s Castle is a huge asset to Limerick and there is massive interest in it and we are looking at new ways of promoting that. The City of Culture has turned Limerick around and it is in a very positive moment. You can see it - it’s very visible. There is a very good momentum at the moment – the thing is to keep it going.”