Willie Walsh - chief executive of British Airways and its parent company, the International Airlines Group – was the guest of honour and speaker at the annual President’s Lunch of the local Chamber of Commerce. Mr Walsh attended the lunch in his capacity as President of the London Chamber of Commerce.
The attendance of Willie Walsh at this year’s event was particularly appropriate as more than 200 Chamber members and guests paid tribute to the first ever president of the London Chamber of Commerce, Sir William McArthur, a Derry businessman.
Stating that Willie Walsh can, and should, be an inspiration to businesses in Derry, Padraig Canavan, President of the Derry Chamber of Commerce, said Mr Walsh recognised his company’s fast changing operating environment and exploited opportunities to strengthen an established airline.
“He took British Airways, merged it with Iberia to form IAG and is now acquiring BMI. Willie recognised changing times and adjusted his business model accordingly.
“Derry is similarly at a cross roads – as is Northern Ireland. None of us a few years ago expected a recession of such devastating destruction. But that recession has hit weaker economies worse than stronger economies and geographically marginal locations especially badly.
“In these times, we have to play to our strengths, tackle our weaknesses and exploit opportunities when they arise. While it is tempting to yield to gloom amidst the continuing economic crisis, let us remember that successful businesses adapt successfully – just like BA.
“Derry as a city, and its business community, has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity through City of Culture. It is essential that all of us make the most of it for the cultural and economic opportunities it presents.”