Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves has chided head of the Tourism Authority, Glen Beache, for speaking out of turn then reacting “negative” when persons criticise him when things do not pan out as he says.
Gonsalves’ comments came on Tuesday as the responded to questions on radio about the status of negotiations between his government and Caribbean Airlines (CAL) to begin providing an ATR service to and from Argyle International Airport.
“I don’t want to speak prematurely but there are good discussions which are going on. That’s all I will tell you,” Gonsalves said on Boom FM.
Asked if there would be regular international flights to the airport for carnival (June-July), Gonsalves said: “I am hopeful but I wouldn’t tell you today that’s definite, but I’m hopeful.”
It was pointed out to Gonsalves that Beache said in Canada last week that the chartered international flight that the government booked to fly to Argyle when the airport opened on Feb. 14 operated at a loss.
“The point is this, the charters were done and when you do charters also for Carnival, you try as best as possible to have the charters come close to break-even but the charters which we did were part of the tourism promotion.
“You have to promote the destination. I don’t understand people you know. They say you must promote the destination but you don’t promote the destination only by putting an ad on TV you know. It’s promoted in different ways,” Gonsalves said.
The prime minister said he would provide “in due course” the fact about status of negotiations with international carriers that the government is hoping to woo to fly to Argyle.
Beache, a former tourism minister, told Vincentians in Montreal on Friday that the government is willing to talk to any international carrier that will talk with the government.
He, however, reiterated that after five years of negotiations, he has failed to convince an international carrier to make regular scheduled flights to the airport, which opened on Feb. 14, six years behind schedule.
Gonsalves said on Tuesday that there are discussions with a number if airlines.
“A lot of time, when you are discussing things with airlines, one of the problems and also, I tell Glen, too, he often speaks out of turn. If something is not definite, you ask him as question, he must answer the way I have answered: that there are discussions going on, he might be hopeful, there are some challenges, but don’t say something which is either going to raise people’s hopes and then it comes back and when it pins you, you then turn negative…. On this matter, you notice how I speak?” Gonsalves said.
During his town hall meeting in Montreal on Friday, Beache attacked social media commentators who are critical of his work, saying that attracting an airline to a destination is not like buying a car.
Last week, Gonsalves told a press conference that he was using the media to put pressure on Beache and Minister of Tourism, Cecil “Ces” McKie to secure international charters soon for Vincy Mas in June-July.