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Wales needs airports overhaul to ‘boost economy and connectivity’

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IT WAS highlighted this week that Wales is significantly lagging behind other UK nations in terms of airport capacity and usage, posing a stark disadvantage to its economy and global connectivity.

This concern is highlighted by the fact that while English, Scottish, and Northern Irish airports facilitate approximately four passengers per head of population annually, Welsh airports manage less than a tenth of that figure.

Cardiff airport is still struggling post-Covid, and Qatar airlines – who offer connections to most major international routes – failed to make a return to Cardiff in December 2023 despite many promises.

As Wales stands on the brink of potentially transformative changes in its aviation sector, the upcoming general election presents an opportunity for UK-wide support for a project that could significantly ‘level-up’ the region. With the new First Minister set to take office, prioritising a bold aviation strategy could mark one of the most substantial economic advancements for Wales since devolution.

Joel Strange, a director at Grant Thornton’s economic consulting practice, has emphasied the importance of this pivotal moment for Wales, advocating for a comprehensive and forward-thinking approach to aviation that could redefine Wales’s place in the global community.

Writing in an article for Business Live, he says that the central issue appears to be the location of Wales’s sole international gateway, Cardiff Airport, which is situated over ten miles from the city center and major transport links, essentially leaving it without a significant population base to serve. This geographic disadvantage has been linked to diminished economic benefits for Wales, as academic research from the US and Europe suggests a direct correlation between international airport access and various economic metrics, including productivity, GDP, wages, and employment.

With the majority of Welsh passengers and international visitors relying on airports in England, there is a growing concern that the current situation undermines efforts towards economic ‘levelling-up’ within the UK. Moreover, Wales’s inbound tourism sector is believed to be operating below its potential due to the lack of direct international travel options.

In light of these challenges, discussions are underway regarding the future of aviation in Wales. Proposals include the development of a new airport hub located between Cardiff and Bristol, ideally near the Severn Bridge, irrespective of the side of the border. Such a move could potentially consolidate Cardiff and Bristol airports into a single, more accessible location, which could handle over 20 million passengers annually, thereby transforming it into one of the UK’s largest airports outside London.

This proposition is not without precedent; cities and regions around the world have seen benefits from sharing airport facilities, with notable examples including the EuroAirport Basel-Freiburg-Mulhouse tri-national airport. The benefits of a consolidated airport in south-west Britain could be manifold, encompassing enhanced destination access, operational efficiencies, reduced environmental impact, and financial gains.

However, the idea of a new airport has been met with skepticism in the past, attributed to the perceived viability of Cardiff Airport in its current location and capacity constraints at Bristol Airport. Nevertheless, the evolving landscape, including the development of the South Wales Metro and the approaching capacity limits of Bristol Airport, has reignited discussions about the feasibility and necessity of a new aviation strategy for Wales.

The Welsh Government, having previously shown leadership through initiatives like the South Wales Metro, is now faced with the task of exploring long-term options for the region’s aviation assets. This exploration will need to consider environmental impacts, stakeholder collaboration, and the potential alignment of commercial incentives, especially with entities such as the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, the owners of Bristol Airport.

Natasha Asghar MS, Shadow Transport Minister told The Pembrokeshire Herald this week: “It is deeply concerning that Qatar Airways is still not flying from Cardiff Airport. I have queried Cardiff Airport regarding this, and the response I received was inadequate, the route is still paused, and the Airport is still in detailed discussions to resume.

“With over £200m of taxpayers’ money ploughed into Cardiff Airport, it’s simple, enough is enough, no more money should be pumped into this failing airport.”

Business

Tenby’s favourite Japanese restaurant Umi reopens under new ownership

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There’s great news for aficionados of Japanese cuisine in Pembrokeshire, the much-loved Umi restaurant, which closed its doors on High Street in Tenby in January, is now set to welcome diners once again under the new stewardship of Lok and Jen Cheung.

The couple, renowned for their culinary ventures including The Dragon Palace Chinese restaurant at Pentlepoir and Lokky’s and The Imperial Dragon Inn at nearby Wooden, are on a mission to redefine the Japanese dining experience in the picturesque Welsh town.

The grand reopening of Umi – which means The Ocean in Japanese – took place on Wednesday, February 28, has been the subject of much anticipation and excitement. “We are beyond excited to announce the grand reopening of Umi today,” Lok and Jen expressed, inviting customers to prepare for a “culinary voyage that will transport you straight to the vibrant streets of Japan.”

Umi’s commitment to quality and authenticity shines through in its offerings. The restaurant promises an array of fresh ingredients, expertly crafted sushi rolls, and mouth-watering Japanese delicacies. “From traditional favourites like sashimi and tempura to unique fusion creations, our menu is a true celebration of flavours,” the couple shared in a recent Facebook post.

However, Umi aims to offer more than just exquisite food. The restaurant’s serene and stylish ambiance is designed to immerse guests in the beauty and tranquillity of Japanese culture, making it an ideal venue for both intimate dinners and lively gatherings with friends.

Lok and Jen are no strangers to the hospitality industry. The busy parents of four have previously made their mark with the success of The Dragon Palace, followed by the opening of Lokky’s, which features cuisine inspired by eastern Asia. In June last year, they expanded their portfolio with the launch of The Imperial Dragon Hotel, notable for its themed rooms that include Indian, Japanese, and Chinese decor.

Their efforts have not gone unnoticed in the culinary world. The Dragon Palace was awarded the Best Oriental Restaurant in the Food Awards Wales 2022, and Lokky’s secured the title of Best Asian Restaurant in Wales at the Golden Chopsticks Awards 2022.

With such a rich background and a clear passion for enriching Tenby’s dining scene, the reopening of Umi under Lok and Jen Cheung is poised to be a gastronomic event that will further cement their reputation as pioneers of Asian cuisine in Wales.

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Business

McDonald’s thanks Milford Haven after a busy first day

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MC DONALD’S new restaurant in Milford Haven, which opened its doors for the first time today, February 28th, at 11am, has already become a hit with the locals, thanks to an overwhelming turnout.

The opening day saw the restaurant bustling with patrons eager to check out the new location.

Reflecting on the day, the McDonald’s team extended a warm message of gratitude. A spokesperson said: “Wow, you came to see us in your droves today!

“We certainly tried our best to provide good service to you all. Inevitably at times, service was a bit slower than we would have liked, but we hope to see you all again soon.

“Thank you from team Milford.”

Despite the busy start and not offering breakfast on its first day—a detail proactively communicated to customers—the franchise’s focus remained steadfast on ensuring everyone had a positive experience.

The commitment of the new McDonald’s restaurant to the local community extends beyond its menu. In partnership with the police and Port Authority, the franchise is actively working to address anti-social behaviour and improve traffic management around the new site.

These collaborations aim to create a safe and enjoyable environment for both patrons and the broader community, reinforcing McDonald’s dedication to making a positive impact, the company said.

The opening of the restaurant has also brought significant employment opportunities to Milford Haven, with 90 new jobs created.

This boost increases the total number of individuals employed by Lonetree Limited, the local franchisee, to around 1,700 across its 17 McDonald’s outlets in South West Wales.

As McDonald’s encourages residents to follow their social media for updates, the overarching message is one of gratitude and excitement for the future.

A local councillor said: “The successful launch day sets a promising tone for the McDonald’s restaurant in Milford Haven as it embarks on its journey to be more than just a place to eat but a valued community partner.”

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Business

McDonald’s opens new branch in Milford Haven today

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A BRAND new McDonald’s restaurant is opening its doors in Milford Haven today (Feb 28) at 11am, offering locals a fresh dining option with a promise of community engagement and attention to local issues. The opening marks a departure from the usual breakfast service, with the restaurant opting to start later on its first day, running until 11 pm, before resuming its regular hours of 6 am to 11 pm thereafter.

A spokesperson for McDonald’s Milford Haven expressed enthusiasm for the launch, stating, “We are excited to be opening at 11am! We are open all the way through till 11pm and can’t wait to serve all of you throughout the day/week. We hope no matter what time of the day or night you visit us that you enjoy your first look around our new store.”

The opening day’s late start means that breakfast will not be available, a point the franchise was keen to highlight ahead of time. “Good Afternoon, Our opening hours will be 6am-11pm. But however, on opening day we will be opening at 11am so no breakfast,” the company announced, setting the stage for what is anticipated to be an enjoyable experience despite this minor setback.

In a move that underscores its commitment to becoming an integral part of the Milford Haven community, McDonald’s has announced collaborations with local law enforcement and the Port Authority to address anti-social behaviour and ensure efficient traffic management around the new location.

This partnership, The Herald was told, aims to ensure a safe and enjoyable environment for both patrons and the broader community.

The McDonald’s restaurant franchise encouraging residents to follow their social media pages for updates and to share news of the opening with friends and family.

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