Head of the Tourism Authority, Glen Beache, wants persons to stop calling Sunwing Airlines to inquire about its expected flight to Argyle International Airport on Feb. 14, when the airport opens officially, six years behind schedule.
Beache said on Tuesday — two weeks after he announced that Sunwing and Caribbean Airlines (CAL) — would be chartered to fly to argyle, that calls to Sunwing may become “annoying” to the company.
His comments came as he addressed the media launch of Vincy Mas 2017, where he announced for the first time that tickets for the Sunwing flight could be obtained through Toronto-based G.G. Tours.
But less than a month before the flight, Beache, who has been trying for years to get airlines to make scheduled flights to the airport, also asked that people not called G.G. Tours until he tells them to.
His comments came as he addressed the media launch of Vincy Mas 2017 — the 40th iteration of the festival since the carnival was moved from the pre-Lenten season to June-July.
Beache said that St. Vincent and the Grenadines is about to enter “a new era”, noting that for the first time, the nation will have an international airport
“It opens up a lot for us to do. It opens up a completely different way of how we market the destination. We would now be able to work directly with the major airlines — something that we couldn’t do before, because we never had that influence,” Beache told the launch in Kingstown.
“This is a chance for us to be even better than good. It is a chance for us to be great, to carry carnival to the next level, to carry a lot of our product — the product that is St. Vincent and the Grenadines — to the next level. And make no mistake that Carnival is part of the tourism product,” he said.
Beache said that he knows that since he announced — two weeks ago — about the airport beginning operations, he has said that Sunwing will fly to Argyle from Pearson International in Toronto and CAL from JFK, New York.
“And we are still looking at one from the United Kingdom,” he said.
“And I’m going to take this opportunity to really say this again. You are not going to find chartered flights under the listing of Sunwing, under the listing of CAL, because it is a chartered flight,” Beache said.
“So when I have people from Sunwing calling me because some Vincentians are calling them and keeping the operators from the call centres busy at the busiest time of the year for them, it can be annoying to them.
“And we’ve built a good relationship with Sunwing. They are some people we would like to continue to speak to. Sunwing is not responsible for the charter, as I have said before, and I will give you some details now, because I think it is pretty much coming to an end, where I can announce the details, hopefully by the end of this week.”
Beache said the Tourism Authority is working with a tour operator, G.G. Tours, in Toronto.
“They have chartered the flight. They are the ones who will be selling the tickets and our plan is that when G.G. Tours puts in the information into the system that it would be available to every tour operator and travel agent in Canada.”
He said Vincentians can let their relatives in Canada know that G.G. Tours will arrange the charter.
“Please, do not call them until you hear the announcement from us. Please,” Beache said, adding that the announcement would be made soon.
He said the same obtains for CAL but said he would not give the tour operator that will arrange the charter.
“But CAL cannot sell the tickets. It has to go through a tour operator also. That is the way it is done. So, for all the so-called experts out there who continue to call Sunwing while they are doing a radio programme, I mean, we really have to be bigger than this. We really have to do things properly. We are going to be on a different level. Let us make the most of it. Let us be positive in everything we put forward. Let’s us be positive about Carnival,” Beache said.
He further spoke of the attitude he wants Vincentians to adopt at the Feb. 14 opening of Argyle International Airport.
“I want us, as a people, to be proud,” Beache said.
“Forget about ULP and the politics, forget about NDP. Mind you, I will out there in a red shirt,” he said to laughter, adding, “Make no mistake about it.
“But, it is a time for us to be proud of our accomplishments. People can say what they want; you can say what you want about the prime minister or the party or whatever. I dare you, anybody in here, to tell me of somebody else who would have come up with such a magnificent plan to construct that airport, because we know we could not have afforded it on our own,” Beache said.