London 2012 'a likely factor' in fall in Hial passengers

Usain Bolt winning the 100m men's final at the London Olympics Hial believe some potential travellers stayed at home to watch the Olympics

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The London Olympics was among factors that led to a fall in passenger numbers at Scottish regional airports, it has been suggested.

Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (Hial) said its figures for July were down 1.3%, compared to the same time last year.

Of Hial's 11 airports, only Inverness and Tiree recorded increases.

It said potential travellers choosing to stay at home to watch the Games was among likely causes for the drop.

However, the Scottish government-owned company said the country's regional airports were performing better than counterparts in the rest of Europe in terms of passenger growth.

Figures released by industry body Airports Council International indicated a slowing of traffic growth across Europe.

Average growth rates of 1.8% were recorded for the first six months of 2012 for airports with less than five million passengers.

Hial said the statistics showed it recorded growth of 5% across the group.

Its two busiest airports - Inverness and Sumburgh - recorded growth rates of 9.6% and 10.4% respectively.

Inglis Lyon, managing director of Hial, said the company had enjoyed a good start to the new financial year.

He added: "Clearly, last month's result were less encouraging but we are hopeful that growth will continue.

"Much will depend on the strength of the economy, which is a key driver for business and leisure travel.

"Market conditions are tough but we are punching above our weight compared to other airports in Europe."

Hial's airports in the Highlands, Northern Isles, Argyll, Dundee and the Hebrides connect to a network of more than 30 destinations in the UK and abroad.

They include Amsterdam, Bergen, Dusseldorf and Zurich.

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