Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace has responded to comments made by tourism minister Cecil “Ces” McKie about an expected boom in tourist arrivals to St Vincent and the Grenadines next year.
McKie recently told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that St. Vincent and the Grenadines was “bracing for a boom in tourist arrivals with the expected opening of its first international airport in 2015.
McKie told CMC during Tourism Week in New York that the Unity Labour Party government expects visitor arrivals to the country to more than double when the Argyle International Airport becomes operational.
The government has said that the airport will be completed by the end of 2014 and should become operations sometime around the middle of 2015.
“So where we welcomed just over (a few) visitors by air each year now, we expect that those numbers will triple in the next two years once the international airport is opened,” McKie told CMC.
But Eustace, speaking on his New Democratic Party’s daily radio programme, said on Wednesday that while the tourism minister is talking about a boom over the next two years, the Argyle International Airport is yet to be completed and the government knows that it cannot be completed by the end of this year, as planned.
“The airport is not going to finish in 2014 and the government knows that because they’ve admitted to that. They’ve admitted to that so how you could he make this statement as Minister of Tourism?” Eustace said.
He further said there is no indication of any preparation for the assumed tourism boom in terms of additional training of persons for the hospitality service industry and expansion of hotels and guest houses to accommodate more tourists.
“So, how is he going to double it next year in terms of the number of visitors coming in and triple it in the next two years?” Eustace said.
“Come on, we’re not fools. This is an insult to our intelligence as a people here. We’re not backward. For the minister of tourism to make such a statement something is wrong with him… So, he’s suddenly going to have [doubled figures], without any new construction and so on? We don’t know what airlines coming here up to now or how many will come.”
Eustace said he found the tourism minister’s statement to be “totally irresponsible.”
“Why you going to make a statement like that to the media? We expecting a boom? St Vincent and the Grenadines expecting a boom in tourism?” he said.
“Who he trying to fool?” Eustace further said.