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Opening of AIA brings promise of over quarter million tourists annually

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With the opening of the Argyle International Airport (AIA), the Prime Minister says that St Vincent and the Grenadines can expect to eventually see over 250,000 tourists visiting the island through the involvement of international airlines and tourism operators.{{more}}

Speaking at the landing of four aircraft at the AIA last Thursday, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves said that “for all practical purposes”, the airport is finished.

He highlighted that the airport fencing is now being completed, the internal roads are being constructed, and only 3,000 ft of the 9,000 ft runway is still to be asphalted.

“Everything is in place, with finishing touches… We are moving fast pace ahead… This what we have paved here, we can land a LIAT plane right now; we can land an executive jet here, we can land Amerijet here… and very shortly, we are going to be able to land the 747 jets,” enthused Gonsalves.

He further elaborated that his government has already secured two international airlines from the United States, one from Canada, and several from Europe – including the United Kingdom.

The Prime Minister also spoke about the proposed Peter’s Hope hotel/resort, which will benefit directly from the completion of the AIA.

He explained that the resort is likely to see involvement from German company TUI, one of the largest tourism operators in the world – which operates out of the UK as Thompson Holidays and First Choice.

“They want to bring to St Vincent… every week, 700 passengers – nine nights. When you check that out, you are having over a quarter million passengers a year, which will come from that resort, which will be some three times the number of tourists who come and stay over in St Vincent currently.”

Gonsalves noted that over the years, persons have spread “falsehoods” regarding this project, claiming that it would never become a reality; but they have now been proven wrong with the landing of four aircraft at the AIA.

“They have no understanding of anything. All that is driving them is their hatred of Ralph and their love for power, and their standing askance from the power of love.”

Dr Rudy Matthias, chief executive officer of the International Airport Development Company (IADC), also addressed the event at Argyle.

“We are nearly done. They said it couldn’t be done… but today we are witnessing one of several historic moments in the construction of this Argyle International Airport.”

Matthias recognized the “hard work and efforts” of several persons, including the Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves.

“We couldn’t have got this far without the strong, unflinching support and commitment of Ralph Gonsalves and his government.”

He recalled that when the announcement was made in 2005 that the airport project would go ahead, many persons dismissed it as merely being a “political gimmick” – something that is still being said currently with the December 9 general elections looming.

“It would be my dream… to see this project completed under the ULP administration. I can’t conceive of the Argyle International Airport being completed by persons who said at almost every juncture that we didn’t need this airport, that it couldn’t be built,” insisted Matthias.

“It will be an injustice if we are not allowed to finish this airport project here at Argyle. So, we have to finish it… But we need some time to finish it. I am sure we have about two and a half more months… to finish this airport.”

Camillo Gonsalves, Unity Labour Party (ULP) candidate for East St George, was also present at the landing, and lauded the financial involvement of governments around the world in the execution of this project.

He noted some of the countries that gave assistance as Canada, Taiwan, Cuba, Venezuela, Austria, Trinidad and Tobago, Mexico, Georgia (Europe), Libya, and Iran – among others.

“The entire world has helped St Vincent and the Grenadines to build this airport, and we are grateful to them. It took amazing vision, not only to conceptualize such a thing, but to go out and do the leg work.”

The younger Gonsalves also thanked Vincentians residing at home and in the diaspora, who made the “most and greatest contributions” to this important project.

“Never before in the Caribbean has an independent nation built an airport from scratch in the way that we have done today. It is a story of triumph… and we should all be proud of what we have accomplished!”

Also speaking at the event were Frederick Stephenson, ULP candidate for South Windward; Saboto Caesar, ULP candidate for South Central Windward; and Cecil McKie, ULP candidate for West St George.

They all reiterated the benefits that the opening of the AIA would have on the various local industries – with particular emphasis on tourism, agriculture and fisheries. (JSV)