The only occupant (a security guard) in the tiny terminal at Sir James F. Mitchell Airport in front of an out-of-date LIAT sign.

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]. 

Last week, my family and I had the pleasure of visiting Bequia for three glorious days, my first overnight trip to this enchanting island in 35 years!

We stayed at a budget villa at Port Elizabeth not far from Sir James Mitchell’s historic Frangipani Hotel on Admiralty Bay.

Our comfortable and scenic boat trip on the Bequia Express took the usual 60 minutes. What immediately struck me as we turned into Admiralty Bay was the site of 50 or so yachts of all size and description dotting the inshore area, an enchanting picture that highlighted the overwhelming importance of the sea in the life of islanders. Since we were close to the harbour we witnessed the nearly hourly arrival and departure of transport vessels carrying people and cargo. We also saw the constant back and forth transit of a small ferry from the cruise ship that visited the island on our second day.

By my admittedly crude estimate, perhaps several hundred people and tens of thousands of pounds of goods arrived and left Port Elizabeth by boat each day we were there.

On our third day, we took an island tour which, at my request, included a visit to the James F. Mitchell Airport. Our approach showed an almost empty parking lot (see photo below), the few vehicles seen probably belonging to a tiny staff of airport personnel.

Three airport workers were lounging outside the building while one was lazily sitting in the terminal (see photo below). The partially obscured sign below suggests that LIAT is still servicing the airport, something that has not occurred for many years.

Of the two washrooms inside the terminal, the male-only one was closed owing to disrepair. The other is available to both genders though a lock on the inside is available for those who insist on privacy.

The approach to the chronically deserted James F. Mitchell Airport.
The approach to the chronically deserted James F. Mitchell Airport.

 

 

 

 

 

Overall, my view that James F. Mitchell Airport is a white elephant was confirmed by personal observation: the morgue-like quality of the Bequia airport could not contrast more with the vitality of the Bequia wharf.

What was also confirmed is that the Kingstown cruise ship terminal should have been built on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth instead (perhaps at Hamilton on the north side of Admiralty Bay), given the greater attractiveness of Bequia to sea visitors than our mainland. From a political point of view, Sir James would probably not have been able to pull this off. The result is that we are now burdened with a useless and needless airport in Bequia and a useless and needless cruise ship terminal in Kingstown.

The single unisex working washroom at James F. Mitchell Airport.
The single unisex working washroom at James F. Mitchell Airport.

Unfortunately, this will soon be joined by a useless and needless international airport at Argyle.

There is also a lesson here for the overall economic development of the multi-island nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines: Sir James’ long-term legacy may well be that he failed to push hard enough for the separation from and independence of the Grenadines from mainland St. Vincent, an outcome which would well have made both countries far better off today.

C. ben-David

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].

3 replies on “More thoughts on Mitchell’s white elephant airport in Bequia”

  1. The separation was definitely needed! Would have been so much better. However the airport get flights that comes in mostly in the evenings or early in the morning seeing that I live really close to here I would know! Renovation is needed there but I think it’s a stay!

    1. From what I can tell there are a total of four regularly scheduled daily arrivals and departures (totalling eight flights) on planes averaging 10-12 seats. So about 50 people arrive from all over the Caribbean every day vs. at least that number on each vessel several times a day via Bequia Express, Admiral 2, Jaden Sun and other boats plus scores by yacht and hundreds from occasional cruise ships.

  2. Very factual but independence? Autonomy maybe. But if Bequia and/or the Grenadines would have autonomy Ralph Gonsalves would certainly no longer be Prime Minister. Much of the income of SVG comes from Tourism because of the Grenadines. Gonsalves is too dumb to figure out how to create an environment where the private sector can employ people, other than the tourism that already existed when he became PM. He does evd
    everything wrong. Mitchell made fewer mistakes, although the airport on Bequia looks like one of them.

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