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AIA created level playing field – Tourism Minister

AIA created level playing field – Tourism Minister

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The Argyle International Airport (AIA) has created a level playing field which allows St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) to take its place, move forward and compete more effectively with Caribbean and international countries in the area of tourism.

Speaking at Johnson Hill, Argyle last Saturday, during a rally held to celebrate the AIA’s first anniversary, Minister of Tourism, Sports and Culture Cecil McKie said that there are five main differences between the AIA and the decommissioned ET Joshua Airport.

Listing the five, the Tourism Minister said that the AIA has allowed for greater opportunities in terms of connectivity and direct flightsout of SVG, while giving airlines the options to land from any direction.

“…you saw the planes landing this evening, and there have been very few cancellations here at Argyle. Last week and this week there would have been many cancellations if we were still at the ET Joshua Airport,” said McKie, adding, “this by far is the best approach of any airport anywhere in the region. What a beauty when you come into this facility.”

McKie also spoke about what he thinks is the ease with which people clear Customs and Immigration, describing the process as, “easy and smooth,” and saying it allows travellers to get out into the open area, “in a flash.”

Going on, McKie commented, “…and of course, the biggest one of them all, we are now able to have direct long-haul scheduled flights to St Vincent and the Grenadines, not possible when we were at the ET Joshua Airport.”

Giving statistics, McKie said that from October 2017 to January 2018, Sunwing Airlines did seven return flights to SVG from Toronto, bringing 701 passengers and taking out 549 persons.

He noted also that EasySKy, in the latter half of last year, did three return flights and brought in 221 passengers and took out 242.

McKie also praised the AIA, noting that, in 303 days, this country was able to welcome scheduled international flights (Air Canada Rouge), a feat that took our neighbours two years to achieve.

“We did it in 303 days,” stressed McKie, who revealed that Air Canada Rouge has done 10 return fights and brought in 1,220 passengers, while taking out 1,153.

“…By April, they would have brought in 1,747 passengers,” said McKie, boasting that within 395 days of the AIA opening, SVG will welcome our second scheduled long-haul flight when Caribbean Airlines flies from John F Kennedy Airport in the United States to SVG.

“And, they have signed on to do these flights for three years. In fact, they will be coming in once per week, every Wednesday, and from the 7th of July, they will put on an additional flight on Saturday, right into August to cater for the Carnival demand and also for the summer demand and of course, we are working hard to get other direct flights from the US and also from the UK, because these markets are very important to us,” said McKie.

Additionally, McKie said local carriers have been working hard to expand their fleet and improve on their services as they are looking at the fact that we have a high demand for taking cargo out of the country.

“We must say thanks to Amerijet, which has brought a larger aircraft that would not have been able to land at ET Joshua,” McKie told the gathering, adding that while ET Joshua had one small hangar, the AIA has two large hangars, with the possibility of building two more.

“You see the difference the AIA has made? But, it is not restricted to the things that I have just mentioned. Last October 2017, we started a process that is going to develop into our largest sports tourism, project here in St Vincent and the Grenadines,” McKie commented.

He said that the AIA is also helping with sports tourism while they are looking at the possibility of attracting persons to these shores for cultural tourism.

“I also want to show appreciation to all the stakeholders, our friends from the region and beyond who lent their support for us to be able to complete our largest capital project ever, as without their assistance we would not have been able to do it,” said McKie, who added that we can achieve great things if we put negativism aside.

Saturday’s event was also addressed by Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves, Minister of Agriculture Saboto Caesar, Chair of AIA Garth Saunders, Director of Airports Corsel Robertson and chaired by Frederick Stephenson, parliamentary representative for South Windward, the constituency where the airport is located. (LC)