Call for LIAT talks
CASTRIES, St Lucia -Tourism Minister Allan Chastanet has requested a meeting of regional tourism ministers to discuss problems facing the regional airline, LIAT, and civil aviation in the Eastern Caribbean.
Chastanet said one of the important matters he hopes to raise at the meeting is the situation with LIAT after the company said it would most likely register a deficit of US$5.5 million on its operations last year.
Earlier this week, LIAT officials said that the airline also recorded a decline in passenger load and Chastanet has said the bottom line for St. Lucia and most Caribbean states is the fact they are losing intra-regional travellers.
“When this government came into power one of the first meetings that I attended on behalf of the government was a meeting of the shareholders and this was just before we made any pronouncements in terms of the way forward with LIAT.
“This is as we were talking about the amalgamation– the takeover of Caribbean Star, and I made the point then and I will make the point now, if you don’t do something differently with respect to getting a different result, then that is the definition of insanity.
“LIAT also has the responsibility to make sure that it is putting the best system in place to deal with changes taking place in the market place,” Chastanet said.
The Tourism Minister said that while there were factors over which some companies have no control, such as the fuel prices, he believes that there is a fundamental structural problem with the Antigua-based airline that is causing the carrier to continue losing money.
While he called for the regional meeting, Chastanet was also critical of the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority (ECCAA) describing it as a bottle neck and an impediment to the growth of aviation.
“This is witnessed by the fact that we don’t have a multitude of small airlines in the region. This region is very dependent on air travel and why is there not a bunch of small commercial airlines in operation. Why is it to go to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, we can’t fly direct on a regular basis.
“Why can’t we get a flight out on the hour and go to Martinique, why cant we go to Dominica on a regular basis, why aren’t we going to Barbados or Trinidad on a regular basis. If we are serious about integration, those are the mechanisms that are required that will allow integration to take place,” Chastanet said.
He said these were among the issues that needed to be trashed out and addressed collectively. (CMC)