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Enhancing St Vincent’s tourism

Shawn Cumberbatch

Enhancing St Vincent’s tourism

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Barbados and St Lucia, arguably the two leading tourist destinations in the Eastern Caribbean, will be challenged by their closest neighbour.

In a plan centred on its new $520 million Argyle International Airport, which is scheduled for completion between December and March, and the future transformation of the current ET Joshua airport site at Arnos Vale into a “commercial centre”, St Vincent and the Grenadines is banking on becoming a major tourism player.

The plan was outlined recently by International Airport Development Company chief executive officer, Dr Rudolph Matthias. He was speaking during a more than hour-long presentation to a group from Barbados which toured the new airport site.

“Why do we need to build a new airport? Some people argue that there are so many airports in the region why do we need to build one and why do we need to spend so much money building it? It is to help enhance air access to develop the tourism sector,” he said.

“We have a very good tourism product and it is probably the best in the Caribbean. Many of the international media, both print and electronic, have been talking about St Vincent as the emerging destination and when we are mentioned, honestly, there is no other Caribbean island mentioned at the same time. This is not me saying so, you can go on the Web and see it.

“But we are not benefitting from all of that, we are not achieving or realising the potential that we have,” he added.

Matthias said something had to be “really wrong” when a country had a good tourism product but the sector was “actually growing at a declining rate”, as was the case with St Vincent. He said Arnos Vale becoming a commercial centre would “reinforce” the new airport and that officials were also considering transforming the entire Arnos Vale area into a city featuring hotels by the waterfront, condominiums, shopping malls, business centres and possibly a new hospital.