St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ United States Consul General, Howie Prince, and United States Director of Sales and Marketing at the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Tourism Authority, Celia Ross, say they are ecstatic to be among passengers on the historic, chartered flights that will land at the Argyle International Airport (AIA) when it is officially opened on Valentine’s Day.
“First of all, it’s the fulfillment of many years of wishful things,” said Prince, head of the New York-based Consulate General in midtown Manhattan, in a Caribbean Life interview on Tuesday evening. “We can now boast of an international airport, where we can move people and goods and services to bolster our development.
“It’s an historic moment,” he added. “Those of us landing on Valentine’s Day [Feb. 14], it’s both very exciting, and, at the same time, a great prospect from the standpoint of having seamless travel. And to have seamless travel, it’s the fulfillment of many dreams.
“With the ground-breaking for hotel development, tourism should take off, agricultural development should take off, and we can see the return of the brain power,” Prince continued. “The development of the airport can help in our economic development.”
Ross, whose office space is shared with the Consulate General, also told Caribbean Life that, as the tourism representative for many years, the AIA is “definitely a most welcome addition to all the good things the destination has to offer.
“For many years, I have listened to travel agents and consumers talk about the beauty of the destination and, at the same time, lament the difficulty in getting there because of inadequate airlift,” she said. “We expect AIA will boost our tourism industry, bringing many more visitors to our shores.
“In addition to boosting tourism, the international airport will improve the performance of other critical sectors, like agriculture and fisheries,” she added.
“To everyone joining us on the Caribbean Airlines charter on Feb. 14, I welcome the opportunity to be with you on this very historic flight, when one lucky person will have the opportunity to win an exciting package for two at the Bequia Beach Hotel on Bequia [in the Grenadines].”
Two chartered flights on Caribbean Airlines and Dynamics Airline will leave New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, on Feb. 14, for AIA, returning on Feb. 21.
Lennox Joslyn, chairman of the Fundraising Committee of the Brooklyn-based umbrella Vincentian group in the United States, Council of St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Organizations, U.S.A., Inc. (COSAGO), said he cannot wait to land at AIA.
“It’s an historic flight, and I can’t miss this for the world,” he said. “It think it’s a significant milestone for St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and all Vincentians should embrace it, as we move forward.
“I want all Vincentians to move on this [welcome AIA],” added Joslyn, a member of the Brooklyn-based Striders Social and Cultural Organization, who was born at Diamond, a short distance from AIA. “Forget about politics.”
Jackson Farrell, the long-standing president of the Brooklyn-based St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Ex-Teachers Association, stated similar views last month, when he addressed the gala, sell-out 34th Anniversary Luncheon of his group, at Grand Prospect Hall in Brooklyn.
“The airport, whether we like it or not, is coming on stream,” said the recently-retired public school teacher in Brooklyn. “When the Comrade [Prime Minister Dr. Ralph E. Gonsalves] passes on, the airport will still be there. So, let us stop the ‘dotishness’ [opposition to the international airport].”
In his remarks, in the souvenir journal, Farrell, who taught elementary and secondary schools in St. Vincent and the Grenadines before migrating to New York, said the opening of the AIA “brings with it “blessings and challenges.”
He said the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ex-Teachers Association has been “an integral part” of the Brooklyn-based Friends of Argyle International Airport, the group that has been raising funds to assist construction of the airport.
“We have stated clearly that we recognize certain projects purely through the prism of national interest and not as any political partisan objective,” Farrell said.
Speaking at the ex-teachers’ celebratory event, Prince said he had been receiving a number of inquiries about the AIA’s official opening and charter flights on the opening day.
Prince told patrons that he, like an overwhelming number of Vincentians in the Diaspora, looks forward to land in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
“One stop! SVG [St. Vincent and the Grenadines] we coming!” he exclaimed. “One stop! SVG we coming!”
In late December, Gonsalves announced on local radio station, Star FM, an organ of the incumbent Unity Labor Party (ULP), that the AIA will be officially opened on Valentine’s Day.
“I called in just to announce formally that Argyle International Airport would be opened on Feb. 14, on Valentine’s Day, the day of love,” he said.
“All of us in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, it’s a day which we’ve been looking forward to,” the prime minister added. “So, I thought that I should mention it to you.”
Last year, the International Airport Development Company (IADC) — a private limited liability company wholly owned by the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, whose mandate is to spearhead and coordinate all matters relating to the financing and construction of the Argyle International Airport and arranging for the effective management of the airport on its completion – said that work on the AIA was “winding down.”
“Since construction started in August 2008, Vincentians have waited in anticipation of the completion of this project,” said IADC on its website, adding that, after several missed dates, “completion is on the horizon.”
According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, the IADC “had previously forecast – and missed – annual completion dates of 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.”
Glen Beache, the chief executive officer of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Tourism Authority, said in a statement on Tuesday that the AIA boasts a runway that is 9,000 ft. long and 250 ft. wide, and is “capable of accommodating aircrafts as large as Boeing 747-400’s.”
He said the 171, 000 sq. ft. terminal building is designed to accommodate 1.5 million passengers annually.
Beache, a former tourism minister, in the Gonsalves administration, said AIA is further enhanced with two jet bridges, restaurants, bars and other shops – “all designed to provide passengers and airport employees with a pleasant experience.”
“To commemorate the long-anticipated occasion and to set the tone for future flights into AIA,” Beache said tickets for both Caribbean Airlines and Dynamic Airline are being sold by Earley Travel Services in Brooklyn, New York, at www.earle
“Tourism has been the major economic earner for St. Vincent and the Grenadines for the last two decades, and it is expected that the new international airport will increase earnings in this sector, as well as other critical sectors, including agriculture, fisheries and industry,” Beache said.