Though saying that St Vincent and the Grenadines is poised for “a major take off” in tourism with its new state-of-the-art international airport, minister of tourism, sports and culture Cecil McKie has told Barbados and other neighbouring islands not to see his country as a competitor.
St Vincent and the Grenadines opened its new EC$729 million (BDS$540 million) Argyle International Airport (AIA) in February this year, welcoming some major airlines along
It also raised doubt about the continued use of the Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) in Barbados and the Piarco International Airport in Trinidad as hubs for international passengers to and from Kingstown.
However, speaking to Barbados TODAY on the sidelines of a trade show at Caribbean Week in New York, McKie said it was not about competition.
“[Barbados] has provided some logistical connections for St Vincent and the Grenadines. So we have been very grateful for that over the years. We have also benefited from such connections through Trinidad and Tobago and St Lucia. So I think that those destinations will continue to provide supplementary support to the destination,” he said.
“We market the Caribbean as one destination. I think it is very important we continue to do that even as we capitalize on our individual strengths. So I think we have a lot to learn from each other and we should stay away from being fierce competitors, but we do our own marketing in our corners and develop the Caribbean as a number one destination in the world,” the minister added.
At the same time, McKie said the Argyle International Airport would have to eventually become independent so that visitors could fly directly to St Vincent.
“That is going to be important and I expect that our tourism arrivals by air will grow very rapidly,” he said.
Earlier this year, a confident Chairman of the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI) Alvin Jemmott gave the assurance that local tourism officials had nothing to fear, for the time being, from the new AIA.
He had contended that it would take a considerable amount of time before there was any impact.
“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,” Jemmott had said. “I don’t see any 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.”
The St Vincent and the Grenadines’ minister of tourism told Barbados TODAY that the island has already been getting a lot of attention from international carriers who are ready to schedule direct flights to the destination.
This, he said, coupled with the island’s popular yachting and larger cruise vessels, put St Vincent and the Grenadines’ tourism product in a position to experience major growth.
“With our new airport we have already seen interest from airlines. Some of them announced scheduled flights and we have done some charters already,” an upbeat McKie said, adding that it was remarkable to get this type of attention in just three months.
“We are also doing some work in terms of improving our access to the larger cruise lines. So, within the next six or so months, we should have addressed that aspect as well. That is going to make a difference as well, because previously it was really a hassle. It was challenging to get to the destination St Vincent and the Grenadines,” he said.