Guyana-based Roraima Airways says that it hopes to give Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves a Valentine’s Day gift of a planeload of Cuban shoppers when the Argyle International Airport begins operating that day.
The company is looking at expanding its operations across the Caribbean and will also transit its flights out of New York in St. Vincent — before going on to Guyana.
The flights out of New York are operated by Dynamic Airways, an American company that operates seven Boeing 767s, aircraft that carry 250 people each.
On Thursday, Gerald Gouveia, chief executive officer of Roraima Airways spoke in Peter’s Hope at the ground breaking ceremony for Black Sands Resort.
PACE Developments, a Canadian company, is building the resort and villas in the Central Leeward district.
“We are thinking and looking at it, where our 767s, a lot of flights connect through Trinidad and Barbados into Guyana … We are looking to link St. Vincent and Guyana like they have never been linked before. We are going to links the flights out of New York here in St. Vincent and onto Guyana,” Gouveia said.
Gouveia and his wife, who is also a pilot, own the 25-year-old Roraima Airways. The company has a fleet of three Britten-Norman Islander twin-engine aircraft that can seat nine passengers each and two BN Trislander triple engine aircraft that can seat 16 passengers each.
Gouveia said that in addition to Dynamic Airways, his company partners with Insel Air, an airline out of Curacao that connects 20 destinations across the Caribbean.
But four months ago, Roraima teamed up with EasySky, a Honduran airline.
“… and this has been the most exciting one for us, of course, because what has happened, it is connecting us with Cuba.”
He said the airline does daily flights that bring 1,000 Cubans to Guyana each week.
“… and this is very interesting to you and is interesting to many, many Guyanese as they walk through their commercial districts in the city of Georgetown, it is laden with Cubans shopping. So this is shopping tourism…”
Gouveia said that the Cubans that his company flies to Guyana are small business people who travel to Panama, Guyana and the different countries in the Caribbean and shop and going back into Cuba and sell the products.
“And it is amazing. Each one of them is spending 2 or 3,000 U.S. dollars when they arrive on the soil. And if you understand there are a thousand of them arriving in Guyana, and it has been getting bigger and bigger, and there are 10 million people in Cuba.”
He said he will be looking at the commercial districts n St. Vincent “to look at the possibility of your cost of merchandise and then we will bring some of the Cuban travel agents and we hope to be able to do this in time so on the 14th of February, I could give the prime minister a Valentine’s gift.
“And so, we can have our red and white 767 parked on this runway on Valentine’s Day. So I am giving him that for his Valentine’s gift, but he is taking me away from my wife. So I hope my wife will come with me for that day.”
He said airports open up a country.
“And St. Vincent has actually been very isolated, if you understand that. Even for me for me to get here was like pulling a teeth. It was terrible last night.”
He said he loves LIAT, adding that it the island-hopping regional carrier has been the backbone of the Caribbean.
“But St. Vincent needs your direct flights. You need to bring your investors, to bring your tourist onto this island directly.”
Gouveia also commented, lightheartedly at first, on the tourism development in Mt Wynne-Peter’s Hope
“… in Guyana, when you hear people discover black sand, the Canadians go crazy because that is where the gold is. Our country is laden with gold and diamonds. And when the explorers go off into the jungle and they find black sand, they know that is where the gold is. So, I hope that that the Canadians here are really building a resort and they are not digging for gold,” he said to laughter.
“On a very serious note, though, tourism is, in fact, gold,” he said, adding that US$600 billion is being spent on tourism across the world.
“Tourism is the highest employer of human beings,” Gouveia said, adding that the thinks that the project can create employment.
“To get Chinese investors today is easy, to get investors maybe from the Middle East, but to get investors from Canada is like gem. Canadians are very conservative with their money and when they do a project, they do it well, and I want to say you guys are very fortunate to have this Canadian company here in St. Vincent,” Gouveia told the ceremony at which Joseph Romano of PACE Developments also spoke.