NEW YORK, United States, Thursday June 5, 2014, CMC – St. Vincent and the Grenadines is bracing for a boom in tourist arrivals with the expected opening of its first international airport in 2015.
Tourism, Sports and Culture Minister Cecil McKee told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC), at Caribbean Week, being held here from June 1-6, that they expect visitor arrivals to the country to more than double when the Argyle International Airport opens its doors.
“So where we welcomed just over (a few) visitors by air each year now, we expect that those numbers will triple in the next two years once the international airport is opened,” McKee said, adding that construction, which commenced some six years ago, is at “an advanced stage” and will be completed by December.
“In fact the terminal building is virtually complete and that has been handed over and we are now into an advanced stage of construction with the control tower as well as the storage areas, so by the end of this year the physical aspect of things will be completed because we are actually at the tarmac and the runway,” he said.
“After the completion of the physical aspects we will then do the commissioning where we have to get the experts to come and give us the okay.
“Within the first half of 2015, maybe we could narrow it down to the first three months the airport will be commissioned and we will have the first flight landing at the Argyle International Airport,” McKee added.
The main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) has consistently criticised the project which the Ralph Gonsalves government said cost EC$700 million (One EC dollar =US$0.37 cents).
The new airport is situated on the island’s east coast. When completed it will have a runway 9,000 feet long and will be 150 feet wide.
In preparing for the airport McKee told CMC they are looking to see how to strengthen their existing niche markets while developing other markets.
“…access I think is going to be very critical in first of all allowing us to develop and extend capacity because we are pretty limited where that is concerned so were are working on attracting investors, increasing our room stock while we get ready to welcome the world with the opening of the international airport,” he said.
The new passenger terminal building, which has separate sections for domestic and international travellers, is designed to handle about 1.5 million passengers annually.
The government said the airport is being built to accommodate jets as large as Boeing 747-400s and will allow for direct flights to St. Vincent and the Grenadines from the United States, Canada, Europe, and South America.