TOURISM MATTERS: Competitors passing us by
I make no apologies for 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.
Various media reports quoting several named Government officials and politicians stated that by the end of the year Grantley Adams International Airport would receive Category One status. The trouble 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 of the Barbados Tourism Authority, an all-embracing Hotel Refurbishment Fund and so on and on.
The organization charged with the responsibility of making the new St Vincent and the Grenadines airport a reality, the International Airport Development Company (IADC), stated on its website that “the new Argyle Airport is expected to become operational in 2014”.
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).
Already GAIA Inc.has been negatively affected 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 St Vincent and the Grenadines 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 St Vincent and the Grenadines’ membership of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States would appear to make this just a formality.
If, after inspection and certification, Category One status is granted, then this could well open up new gateways into the United States.
My thoughts, too, are that St Vincent and the Grenadines will reach out to co-operate in the fullest extent with some of its 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 (BDS$480 million) has been mentioned frequently.
According to an excellent recent article that appeared in the Baltimore Post, the St Vincent and the Grenadines government is offering significant tax concessions and other benefits for investors to develop a number of sites throughout the 32-island Grenadines chain.
These include Mount Wynne (a 400-acre site for a hotel and 18-hole golf course), Young Island (a 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?
• Adrian Loveridge is a hotelier of four decades’ standing.