One of the homeowners uprooted to make way for the airport is yet to be paid. (Photo: Lance Neverson/Facebook)

By Nelson A. King

NEW YORK (CMC) — Howie Prince, is the Consul General of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines diplomatic office in the United States.

Celia Ross, who shares the building with him, is the United States Director of Sales and Marketing at the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Tourism Authority.

Both are ecstatic that on Valentine Day, they will be among several passengers making an historic and romantic journey back to their homeland. Only this time, instead of having to endure several stopovers, they will be flying directly to the newly built Argyle International Airport (AIA).

“First of all, it’s the fulfilment of many years of wishful things,” Prince told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC), adding, “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. Those of us landing on Valentine’s Day, 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 fulfilment 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. The development of the airport can help in our economic development.”

The international airport was built with a tag price of EC$700 million and is considered a major political achievement of the ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP) and Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves in particular, who has come under intense criticism at home over the project, which is six years behind schedule.

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro is among those expected to attend and address the ceremonial opening of the facility next Tuesday.

Venezuela and Cuba were among those countries that helped Gonsalves fulfil his dream of building an international airport in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Ross, whose office space is shared with the consulate general, said 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. 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.

“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,” she added.

The 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 can’t wait to land at AIA.

“It’s an historic flight, and I can’t miss this for the world. I 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,” he insists.

The long-standing president of the Brooklyn-based St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ex-Teachers Association, Jackson Farrell, has expressed similar views.

Addressing the 34th Anniversary Luncheon of his group in Brooklyn last month, he told the audience “the airport, whether we like it or not, is coming on stream.

“When the Comrade (Prime Minister Gonsalves) passes on, the airport will still be there. So, let us stop the dotishness (doltishness) and opposition to the international airport.”

In his remarks in the souvenir journal, Farrell, who taught elementary and secondary schools in SVG before migrating to New York, said the opening of the AIA brings with it “blessings and challenges” and that his association has been “an integral part” of the Brooklyn-based Friends of Argyle International Airport that has been raising funds to assist construction of the airport.

“We have stated clearly that we recognise certain projects purely through the prism of national interest and not as any political partisan objective,” Farrell said.

Prince, who also addressed the ceremony, said he had been receiving a number of inquiries about the AIA’s official opening and charter flights on the opening day and that an overwhelming number of Vincentians in the Diaspora were looking forward to landing at home.

“One stop! SVG we coming!” he exclaimed. “One stop! SVG we coming!”

Last year, the International Airport Development Company (IADC), a limited liability company wholly owned by the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, 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”.

Chief executive officer of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Tourism Authority, Glen Beache, said in a statement that the AIA boasts a runway that is 9,000 ft. long and 250 ft. wide, and is “capable of accommodating aircraft 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…

“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,” Beache said.

5 COMMENTS

  1. 1. The term “ecstatic” refers to a trance or trance-like state in which a person transcends normal consciousness. From a psychological perspective, ecstasy is a loss of self-control and sometimes a temporary loss of consciousness, which is often associated with religious mysticism, sexual intercourse, and the use of certain drugs. We certainly have been made irrational by this AIA project, a state of mind we will soon regret as reality begins to set in. Still, all these people work for the State and the State is Ralph, so what can you expect?

    2. What is the nonsense about, “instead of having to endure several stopovers, they [Prince and Ross] will be flying directly to the newly built Argyle International Airport,” when there is only one short stop from New York at Barbados, St. Lucia, or Grenada.

    3. Ross’s comment that, “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. We expect AIA will boost our tourism industry, bringing many more visitors to our shores” is pure SVG tourism fictional propaganda. It is still much easier to fly to St. Vincent Island from New York, Toronto, or London via Barbados than it is to fly to many other tropical destinations around the world that have a huge number of visitors departing from these destinations. Just check out flights to Tahiti from these destinations, for example, for proof of my statement.

    4. Her comment that “one lucky person will have the opportunity to win an exciting package for two at the Bequia Beach Hotel on Bequia” speaks volumes about the greater desirability of holidaying in the Grenadines than on the mainland.

    Did our dear Comrade ghost-write this piece?

    • c.b-david,

      Enough with your nonsense! If you were a “REAL VINCY”, you would understand the significance of the occasion. Your problem is that you cannot go a day without hearing yourself speak – an indicator of narcissism.

      It’s also a sign of someone who is aiming to compensate for other shortcomings. You should do some research into the procedures that may be available for guys with similar issues.

      • Ey a hurt you, eh, Dave? You feeling it, eh, Dave?

        The cure to your affliction is to stop reading what I write.

        The definition of an addiction is not being able to stop engaging in harmful behaviour, in your case compulsively reading stuff you are unwilling or unable to comprehend. It is obvious that reading what I have written is harming you, so either take some nerve medication or just tune me out.

        And, Dave, there is no difference between a “real Vincy” and a “false Vincy.” Didn’t the old people teach you, “A Vincy is a Vincy” ? Or is that also something your can’t understand?

      • You never same able to critique the content of anything I write. The only thing you are able to do is pelt stones at my overall position, none of which ever hit their mark.

        For you, a “REAL VINCY” is anyone who believes that building AIA was a necessary step to help lift us to prosperity and a “FALSE VINCY” is anyone who denies this assertion, a nonsensical dichotomy at best even if it were based on a single shred of logical or factual evidence.

  2. It’s here and we have to live with it but that doesn’t mean we are in agreement with what’s lies ahead for Vincentian and the economy. Waiting for the opening of the airport before seeing improvement to agriculture, fisheries and tourism was not good planning.
    Only time will tell and give a true picture if the suffering Vincentians endured for several years was worth it.
    We will hold the ULP government and Ralph to their promises of new job, improved tourism, increase agriculture and fisheries output.
    Happy and safe landing to those taking the flight on Feb 14th.

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