The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not represent the opinions or editorial position of I-Witness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].
In what appears to be a crude attempt to shore up his declining political base in advance of the upcoming election, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has just announced that an agreement has been signed with some unknown group of Canadian investors to (1) build a hotel and golf course at Mt. Wynne/Peter’s Hope on the Central Leeward coast and (2) construct a tourist attraction around the Little Tokyo area and elsewhere in Kingstown consisting of a creative arts centre, small shops, a boardwalk, and a 40-50 bedroom hotel. The entire project, which he called a “huge investment,” is a result of what he claims is the near completion of Argyle International Airport (AIA) which he and his supporters have long argued will bring thousands of new visitors to the mainland of St. Vincent.
No other details were given, leading to a number of unanswered questions and issues:
- By all accounts, the proposed international airport at Argyle is far from completion, let alone operation, making this new project seem little more than wishful thinking or empty political propaganda.
- A 40-50 room hotel in Kingstown is hard to imagine with most existing hotels and guest houses in and around the capital nearly empty most of the year. Moreover, such a hotel would need to have spacious grounds and various outdoor amenities (swimming pool, tennis court, outdoor bar and restaurant, entertainment and recreational space, etc.) if it is going to attract many tourists, a difficult achievement in our densely packed capital unless tens of millions were expended buying up and bulldozing existing properties.
- Likewise a handsome boardwalk (which would have to be paid for by the government) of any length and utility would be difficult to imagine in a city with so little land that is not occupied by the cruise ship terminal and other docking facilities, and with so many unsightly government and other structures situated so close to the sea. Hopefully, he doesn’t have in mind replicating the funny little excuse of a boardwalk at Villa!
- A creative arts centre sounds like a good idea if run on a non-profit basis, as are most facilities of this type all around the world, but would hardly be a project a profit-oriented “group of investors” would be interested in.
- As for many “little shops” at Chinatown, we have a surplus of all manner of small businesses all over downtown Kingstown, most of which are barely holding their own.
- Overall, points 2-5 suggest that this proposed project looks like the same pipedream as the phantom city planned for Arnos Vale.
- Where at Mount Wynne/Peter’s Hope will the project be located? How many acres of land will be taken up? Will it be a room-rental hotel, time-share, or condominium? How many rooms will the hotel have and what amenities will it contain?
- According to the Prime Minister, the government would retain management (and presumably ownership) of the golf course and clubhouse, a task most people would consider ludicrous given this government’s inability to properly manage and maintain existing tourist facilities. Indeed, publicly-owned golf courses have long been sold off to the private sector all over the world because of incompetent administration and chronic economic losses.
- Most important of all is the identity of this secret “group of investors” from Canada we have been hearing about for years now. What experience do they have in the hotel/resort/hospitality industry? What are they bringing to the table as far as their own investment resources are concerned? What role will the government have in financing the project, lending money to the “group of investors”, or guaranteeing their bank loans?
- Finally, is the agreement that was signed a legally-binding contract or is it simply the unenforceable “memorandum of understanding” — a kind of formal gentlemen’s agreement of intention and interest — that the Prime Minister referred to in the 2015 Budget Address where he argued that the “impending opening” of AIA “… has drawn a group of Canadian investors to present a proposal to the government for a US$200 million hotel investment at Mt. Wynne/Peters Hope. Our government has accorded ‘approval in principle’ for the proposal. The government and the Canadian investors are likely to sign a Memorandum of Understanding within a few weeks, hopefully in February 2015″
Unless we get detailed answers to all these questions and concerns, this project will remain in the land of pipedreams and phony elections promises.
This is the sixteenth in a series of essays on the folly of the proposed airport at Argyle. My other AIA pieces may be found at:
My other AIA pieces may be found at:
- Get ready for a November election!
- Lessons for Argyle Airport from Canada’s Montreal–Mirabel Int’l
- Lessons for Argyle Int’l Airport from the cruise industry
- Lessons from Target Canada for Argyle Int’l Airport
- Lessons from Trinidad & Tobago for Argyle Int’l Airport
- The Dark Side of Tourism: Lessons for Argyle Airport
- Why Argyle Won’t Fly: Lessons from Dominica
- Ken Boyea and the Phantom City at Arnos Vale
- Airport Envy Vincy-Style
- Fully realising our country’s tourism potential
- Airport without a cause
- The unnatural place for an international airport
- The Potemkin Folly at Argyle
- False patriotism and deceitful promises at Argyle
- Airport politics and betrayal Vincy-Style
The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].