Major expansion work is in store for the Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA), as the island prepares to welcome more airlift.
Minister of Tourism and International Transport Richard Sealy made the disclosure as he welcomed JetBlue’s inaugural direct flight out of Fort Lauderdale on Thursday.
In terms of the expansion work, Sealy said provision would be made for jet bridges linking aircraft to the airport terminal.
However he did not reveal the total cost of the project, even though he said loan financing would be provided by the Export-Import Bank of China similar to that being provided for the US$200 million Sam Lord’s Castle re-development project in St Philip.
“As you know, home porting has been going up, so the air/sea transfer element also requires certain work to be done and we are in the process of doing that.
“We are hoping that all of the particulars can be in place by the end of the year to make formal application to the EXIM Bank in general,” Sealy told the gathering which included tourism officials from Bridgetown and Florida, as well as other dignitaries.
He also suggested that 2016 could turn out to be another record year for the island based on his expectation that overall seat capacity could grow by as much as 25 per cent.
“We are working with JetBlue to make sure that this flight can function in both directions. In 2015, we saw some incredible increases over 2014 and it is clear, based on how the year has started and now with the additional 1,000 seats per week we are getting from Fort Lauderdale, 2016 will increase on 2015.
“We are starting to realize the amount of potential we have always had and that also has a lot to do with this [JetBlue] relationship,” he added.
Last year, the island reported a 13.7 per cent increase in long-stay arrivals, which amounted to a record 591,892 tourists.
Based on recent meetings with top officials of Air Canada, Sealy said the island would soon be benefitting from increased airlift out of Toronto and Montreal. He also noted that Virgin Atlantic was committed to adding additional capacity out of the United Kingdom, and there are plans to shift some of LIAT’s hub activity to Barbados.
“We have been seeing increase out of Trinidad and we want to have more regional tourists come in, so we are working on a number of things in that regard,” he added.