The suspect case created much unease at Argyle International Airport. (iWN file photo)

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves says the Vincentian private sector has not been as responsive to the construction of the Argyle International Airport as his government had hoped.

The EC$700 million airport opened on Feb. 14, six years behind schedule.

Gonsalves told a press conference on Monday that his government had hoped that a private sector entity would have funded and managed the cargo terminal, but his government decided to do so in light of the lack of interest.

He further urged the private sector to invest in more hotel rooms in the country, which he said currently has about 2,200 rooms of various standards.

“The hotels have to work with The Tourism Authority.  And I want to say to the hotels, please, get up and be activist,” Gonsalves told a press conference in which he said he was expecting, this week, a progress report from a Cabinet committee the government has set up to look into the construction of a hotel.

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The prime minister said most of the nation’s 2,200 hotel rooms are in between Bequia and St. Vincent, adding that most of the time, there is 40-50 per cent occupancy on an annualised basis.

“Surely, you can work out packages now that you can bring people from further afield easily. Work with the Tourism Authority. And don’t want persons to complain that they are not seeing actions on this front. It is the Tourism Authority’s business but it is you also with your hotel. It is also your business. And it is the Hotels Association’s business.”

Gonsalves said his government has done something “very remarkable” for hotels and have given more concessions for hotels than another other government in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

He said the policy of his government is that if a certain amount of money is invested and an establishment has at least 50 rooms, they are eligible for consideration for duty-free concession on food and beverage.

“There is a whole spate of activity which the private sector can be involved in in relation to the airport, the hotels and others involved in the tourism sector,” Gonsalves said.

He said most of the hotel rooms in St. Vincent were filled with the influx of persons who came into the country to attend activities relating to the opening of the airport on Feb. 13 and 14.

“I want everybody in tourism to hear me, I want the workers to tell their managers, I want the owners to know this, I want the people in the Ministry of Tourism and Glen [Beache] in the Tourism Authority, everybody to hear the message, because they know the message and I want to repeat it: we are open for business big time and to partner with the private sector. And we are going to be building more rooms,” Gonsalves said.

He said that while the private sector has not been as responsive as his government had hoped during the construction of the airport, this does not mean that the private sector is made up of bad people.

“You have a number of people who are risk averse. And I think some businessmen will tell you that and all kind of reasons why people make an investment decision, but there has to be a risk involved,” Gonsalves said.

Read also: Private sector didn’t expect Argyle airport to be completed in 2014

6 replies on “Private sector not very responsive to Argyle Airport — PM”

  1. In a previous essay (https://www.iwnsvg.com/2016/10/28/hotel-saint-vincent/ ), I estimated that there are 20,000 annual tourist and other visitors who sojourn in various paid accommodation on the mainland, about 6,500 of whom are extra-Caribean visitors. Even if I low-balled the second figure, and the true number is 10,000, these visitors are easily accommodated by our existing hotel stock that stands almost empty of tourists from North America and Europe most of the year.

    Even if this 10,000 extra-Caribbean number explodes to 30,000 over the next few years because of AIA — a miracle even beyond the powers of our Prime Minister — our hotel stock could easily house them at a 50 percent annual occupancy rate.

    The last thing we need are more hotel rooms!

    As for the PM’s 2,200 hotel room number, this includes the whole of SVG. The Grenadines islands are the destination of most tourists visiting our country, a cohort of arrivals largely unaffected by the construction of AIA, whether they fly there from the mainland or from some other nearby island. Our politicians and their lackeys must stop deceptively lumping St. Vincent Island with the Grenadines when they talk about the benefits of AIA, including our hotel stock and the arrival of more tourists.

    As for the World Bank estimate cited by embattled Cecil McKie, which if true, gives certain proof why building AIA was a huge waste of money.

    Indeed, even a tripling in new visitors to 30,000 a year would be grossly insufficient to make AIA a value-added project.

    Kudos to our private sector for the sense not to fall for the ULP’s airport hoax.

    Someday, the rest of us will wake up to these realities when are are all forced to suck salt.

    1. David, even if we were to agree with everything you say, including another miracle, isn’t it still growth, so why wish SVG ill? Yours is the cry of unprofitability, inclusive of everything, and why the economics of the Argyle International Airport is hopeless, amounting to negative growth overall , an obsession of yours I believe. It’s like you don’t care to see this country progress, whilst bearing a serious grudge toward SVG’s development under the ULP government. You don’t care for an international airport, don’t care for more hotels, don’t care for Kingstown, don’t care for our beaches (especially black sand), and don’t care for our people, our government. What sort of a monster are you?
      ‘We done know that Hatch trick de Yellow and Venton don’t care for these things also and the ULP’, and puts a bigoted spin to most everything government, while pretending not to know better and wants to be recognized as considerate and caring individuals, and Vincy people aint foolish or stupid.
      ULP’s performance in the socio- political and economic arena left right and center is recorded in the annals of history as “reality”, and what has been achieved going on 16 years of governance. With this record, why should we be bothered and worried about moving forward into a brighter future, when we have already achieved great things (like our “Argyle International Airport”), and have again the willingness and the vision to succeed in all our ventures, with the support of the voting majority and the help of “the coalition…” to achieve even greater things.
      Sponge-ben and Patrick de yellow fellows please understand. Smart Vincentians really don’t take you all or your opinions or your essays seriously, and will never applaud your efforts really, unless they have a bone to pick, like Skeck and Lost and Jeann, and mostly will just treat you all and everything you write as “the opposition’s stance”, what else? And the use of free speech and the best kind of democracy right here in SVG, and until it gets out of hand and somebody end up being sued. You negative folks are for the birds… bunch ah hopeless beings.

    2. Dave from Toronto says:

      c.b-david,

      I knew you weren’t very smart, but now I’ve confirmed (a bit late) that you are a real J.A.

      Only an IDIOT would say the second to last sentence in your comment. We need the private sector to step up to the plate. The future of the SVG lies on the initiatives taken by gov’t, business and citizens. The government has done its part. Now, the rest of us need to take advantage of AIA.

      All you are doing is cutting off your nose to spite your face. Maybe, it’s articles like yours that are scaring investment away. This is treasonous behaviour and the police should take note of your activities.

  2. Patrick Ferrari says:

    It’s too early. Comrade is slipping up. He should not let us see him sweat. Nine days old, this lament is as ill-advised as “The Star.”

    At this rate, I am expecting more ululations.

    1. True; didn’t the boy wonder (love that name you made up) announce at the opening ceremony that we were Now going to become wealthy…because we have an airport? I guess it is our fault that such speculation does not seem to have any potential of coming true. The government did its part and if we are not starting to get rich right now, it is our fault (the private sector).

  3. I wonder what Ken Boyea would say to this? Boyea believed the government and took a big risk and lost almost everything. I’ll bet that is the last time he will listen to Ralph.

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