Above: SVG Argyle Airport earlier in construction
When will Barbados Grantley Adams Airport receive Category One status?
2008 according to the government!
I make no apologies of staying with the subject of implementation or rather the lack of it this week, as I feel it remains the single biggest impediment in returning our tourism industry to viability and restoring previous levels of long stay visitor arrivals.
What prompted these latest thoughts was scanning through various media coverage quoting several named Government officials and politicians, who stated that by the end of the year Grantley Adams International Airport would receive Category One status. The trouble being is that the press articles referred to were printed in 2007.
Here we are six years later with the same proclamations being made in the same publications.
Of course, it’s not just the aviation issue but the much vaunted Tourism Master Plan, the restructuring or the Barbados Tourism Authority, an all-embracing Hotel Refurbishment Fund and so on and on.
According to the organisation charged with the responsibility of making the new St. Vincent and the Grenadines airport a reality, the International Airport Development Company (IADC), ‘the new Argyle Airport is expected to come operational in 2014’. Here we are just months away from opening and I wonder what impact, especially financially, it will have on any plans there may be for our own airport (GAIA Inc.).
“How much longer can we go on watching the world, or in this case our regional competitors, pass us by?”
Already GAIA Inc. has been negatively effected with reduced passenger arrivals and the use of smaller aircraft into Barbados, resulting in diminishing revenue generation: not only directly but for it’s tenants, concessions and service providers. Direct flights into Argyle, a reduction of double-drop flights to our neighbours and a dramatic fall in available airline seats to Barbados will further detrimentally add to this.
By now I am sure those responsible for tourism in SVG will have gone into hyperdrive to see which airlines can be enticed to use the new airport. This will be partially determined by the category afforded to Argyle, but SVG’s membership of the Organisation of Caribbean States (OECS) would appear to make this just a formality.
If, after inspection and certification, Category One status is granted, this could well open up new gateways into the United States.
My thoughts are that SVG will reach out to co-operate in the fullest extent with some of it’s neighbours, especially St. Lucia, to see how they can ‘smart partner’ to jointly build new routes and markets.
The final cost of the construction of the new airport is still being debated, but an amount of US$240 million has been mentioned frequently.
According to an excellent recent article that appeared in the Baltimore Post, the SVG Government is offering significant tax concessions and other benefits for investors to develop a number of sites throughout the thirty two Grenadines chain. These include Mount Wynne (a 400-acre site for a hotel and 18 hole golf course), Young Island (13-acre site for a 30 room boutique hotel), Saint Hilaire (45-acres) and Park Estate (600-acres) both on Bequia, Isle a Quarte (376-acres), Balliceaux (320-acres), Chatham Bay near Union Island (99-acres) and Frigate Island (16-acres).
Even in a recessionary period, greatly improved air access will heighten interest in any of these new developments and ones currently in progress, like Canouan; which includes a 150 berth yacht marina reportedly costing US$150 million alone.
How much longer can we go on watching the world, or in this case our regional competitors, pass us by?