Barbados has nothing to fear for the time being from the new Argyle International Airport (AIA) due to open next month in St Vincent and the Grenadines, according to a top tourism official here.
A confident Chairman of Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc (BTMI) Alvin Jemmott said it would take a considerable amount of time before there is any impact, despite the fact that Barbados has been the international gateway for some Eastern Caribbean destinations.
“With this new airport opening this year, I think it is a good thing for the Caribbean because the Caribbean is the most sought after [tourism destination] and it will also be a good thing for St Vincent and the Grenadines.
“I don’t see an immediate fallout for Barbados because things of this nature will take time to take root and plans that have been made will not change overnight. So I don’t think Barbados has anything to fear in this regard,” Jemmott said.
St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves announced earlier this month that the airport would be officially opened on February 14, raising doubt about the continued use of Grantley Adams International Airport as a transition point for international passengers to and from Kingstown.
Regional carrier LIAT and American cargo airline Amerijet are expected to service the new airport while the government works out kinks and continues its efforts to attract other carriers.
The EC$729 million (BDS$540 million) airport has missed completion deadlines annually since 2011 and had been a major talking point of the 2005, 2010 and 2015 general elections.
Jemmott said Barbados’ longstanding partnership with a number of carriers had helped to solidify the country’s position in the international market, hence there was even less reason to fear new access routes.
“Barbados has extremely good relations with our major airline partners and I cannot see easily where that will deviate. There will still be some people that will still take the Barbados route even if there is a direct flight into St Vincent and that may very well open up the gateway for other neighbouring islands,” he contended
However, the Divi Southwinds manager cautioned that even though the threat of competition maybe some distance away, it did not mean the industry could afford to rest on its laurels.
“Everyone has to be always cognizant of the competition around them and we are called upon to compete, so if you sit on your laurels someone else would eat your lunch. That is something that we cannot afford to do and I am sure that we are not going to do that,” Jemmott stressed.