By C. ben-David

The lead editorial in the Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017 edition of Searchlight newspaper, presumably penned by its CEO/Editor, Clare Keizer, titled “Welcome Air Canada Rouge” applauds the arrival of the first ever regularly scheduled international non-stop flight to Argyle International Airport (AIA) in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).

While Dec. 14 is truly a unique day in the history of our young nation-state, there are several reasons to qualify acclaim for this event, some of which the editor correctly mentions. These include that: “There is much more work to be done if we are to guarantee consistent heavy traffic at the AIA”; “we also need to sustain the level of advertising that has taken place …”; “We would like to see the airport … utilizing technology designed to make travel easier for passengers departing and arriving at the facility”; and “The challenge is for our staff at the AIA to … adopt a good work ethic … to make the experience of travelling through the airport pleasant for everyone.”

This last qualification is somewhat troubling because of its veiled racist implications: since most workers at the airport are black people, it reinforces the stereotype that our creole people don’t have “a good work ethic,” a euphemist way of saying that black people are lazy, an assertion also genteelly hidden in our Prime Minister’s repeated suggestion that we have a low level of worker productivity in our country.

Be that as it may, the most bewildering assertion made in the editorial is: “Critical to flying visitors to our country in large numbers is our hotel room stock, and critical to attracting those large resorts is enough airlift capacity to fill the rooms with guests.”

According to Ms. Keizer et al, if we build more hotel rooms, then more people will come; if more aircraft come, then more large resorts will be built.

Alas, if only the hospitality industry were that simple: every nook and cranny in the world would be stocked with international airports seeing the arrival by the hour of planeloads of visitors, eager to stay at the large resorts built to accommodate them. And everyone would live happily ever after.

Missing in this circular argument is the elementary question of why more people would want to visit our country and why more investors would feel motivated to build more large resorts.

The missing variable in this illogical argument is whether our mainland is attractive and desirable enough to holiday visitors, compared to hundreds of other places, to compel them to come here instead.

Why have are our mainland tourist numbers been so low, with or without an international airport, while so many other locales around the world have huge tourist numbers but no international airport? This is a question I have repeatedly asked and answered in 67 essays (see list below), though the simple explanation I have given, using multiple examples from home and abroad, has fallen on deaf ears and closed minds.

Successful airports are built to meet growing business needs, population increases, and/or tourist demand. Conversely, there are dozens of unsuccessful airports that have not learned these facts, including most recently the US$200 million Nacalas International Airport in Mozambique, now called a “ghost airport”.

Nacalas International Airport in Mozambique, at five percent of capacity, operating at the same level as AIA.

Moreover, most new holiday resorts are built, enhanced, and expanded in response to a growing tourist demand.

In turn, both tourist-oriented airports and holiday resorts are successful because of the quality and quantity of local attractions, an assertion I have also repeatedly documented.

The Searchlight editor refuses to acknowledge this elementary caveat underlying the potential success of AIA, choosing instead to obfuscate by mentioning two foolish red-herring criticisms often raised by persons the Honourable Dr. Ralph E. Gonsalves has rightly called “Internet crazies”:

The authorities are justified in whatever satisfaction they feel now that they have arrived at this point, especially taking into consideration the heavy skepticism that existed in relation to the generally [sic] suitability of the airstrip for planes to land and the facility being given the all-clear by international aviation authorities.”

What Searchlight fails to appreciate is that our beloved island of St. Vincent (but not our alluring Grenadines) simply has a paucity of necessary holiday attractions – the most of important one on a sub-tropical island like ours being miles of white sand beaches — which is why on Thursday, Dec. 14 and every Thursday after that until the last Air Canada Rouge holiday service flight arrives on April 12, 2018, the bulk of passengers will be Vincentian nationals returning home after a business or other trip overseas or to visit family and friends, in other words, people who would have returned home regardless of the construction of AIA, thereby rendering the airport a superfluous waste of money that could have been better spent on other projects.

***

This is the 68th in a series of essays on the AIA folly. My other AIA essays are listed below:

  1. Get ready for a November election!
  2. Lessons for Argyle Airport from Canada’s Montreal–Mirabel Int’l
  3. Lessons for Argyle Int’l Airport from the cruise industry
  4. Lessons from Target Canada for Argyle Int’l Airport
  5. Lessons from Trinidad & Tobago for Argyle Int’l Airport
  6. The Dark Side of Tourism: Lessons for Argyle Airport
  7. Why Argyle Won’t Fly: Lessons from Dominica
  8. Ken Boyea and the Phantom City at Arnos Vale
  9. Airport Envy Vincy-Style
  10. Fully realising our country’s tourism potential
  11. Airport without a cause
  12. The unnatural place for an international airport
  13. The Potemkin Folly at Argyle
  14. False patriotism and deceitful promises at Argyle
  15. Airport politics and betrayal Vincy-Style
  16. Phony airport completion election promises, Vincy-style
  17. Is Argyle Airport really a ‘huge game-changer for us?’
  18. Has the cat got your tongue, Prime Minister?
  19. More proof that Argyle won’t fly
  20. Our very own Vincentian cargo cult at Argyle
  21. The missing Argyle Airport feasibility studies
  22. The world’s four most amazing abandoned airports
  23. Farming, fishing, and foolish talk about Argyle International Airport
  24. Argyle Airport amateur hour
  25. Vincent’s place in the world of travel
  26. Investing in St. Vincent’s Tourism Industry
  27. The Argyle Airport prophecy: what the numbers say
  28. Why Qatar? Why St. Vincent and the Grenadines?
  29. Did the IMF drink the Comrade’s Kool-Aid?
  30. Foolish words about Argyle International Airport
  31. ‘If I come, you will build it’: Lessons from the Maldives for Argyle Airport
  32. Urban lessons for Argyle International Airport
  33. Who really lands at Arnos Vale?
  34. No ticky, No washy — Argyle-Style
  35. We have met the Vincentian tourism enemy and he is us
  36. Hotel Saint Vincent
  37. Why St. Vincent Island has so few tourists 
  38. Why Bequia is a gem of the Antilles
  39. Why seeing is believing in the Caribbean tourism industry
  40. St. Vincent’s cruise ship numbers are much lower than we think
  41. Lessons from Barbados for Argyle Airport
  42. Cuba’s tourism rollercoaster: Lessons for Argyle Airport
  43. What the world teaches Black Sands Resort and Villas
  44. Not all Argyle Airport critics are ‘internet crazies’
  45. The media’s take on the opening of Argyle Airport
  46. Why Roraima Airways? Lessons for Argyle Airport
  47. Our Argyle International Airport ‘veritable miracle’
  48. From ‘poppy show’ to campaign rally: The Argyle Airport opening
  49. St. Vincent’s 2016 tourism numbers are nothing to brag about
  50. Going forward or marching in place? Lessons for Argyle airport
  51. The Visible Hand of Adam Smith at Argyle International Airport
  52. St. Vincent Island doesn’t need any more hotel rooms
  53. Lessons from St Lucia and Grenada for AIA
  54. Is Air Canada also a ‘huge game-changer’ for AIA?
  55. St. Vincent’s mainland tourist attractions
  56. How St. Vincent’s tourist attractions stack up lessons for AIA
  57. Lessons from Guyana for AIA
  58. The world’s best tourist islands: Lessons for AIA
  59. Explaining Argyle airport on St. Vincent Island 
  60. Explaining Argyle airport: A clash of axioms
  61. Questions and answers about the Argyle airport puzzle
  62. More questions and answers about the Argyle airport puzzle
  63. Explaining Argyle Airport: Concluding remarks
  64. A ‘loaded question’ logical fallacy: Argyle Airport’s legacy
  65. Argyle airport’s opportunity cost
  66. What cruise companies are telling us about our tourist industry
  67. Bottom feeding with the Palestinians

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 news.iwitness@gmail.com

3 COMMENTS

  1. This piece could perhaps have benefited from more stringent proofreading, at the very least. Ofttimes, the inclusion or omission of the tiniest of words will change the proposition in a piece especially if the piece is relying on humour styles such as sarcasm, criticism and ridicule to sharpen its impact. Nonetheless, the writer’s focal point which is that there is little to no tourism potential on the mainland of SVG has been made once again, Searchlight or no Searchlight.

  2. I am convinced already! What I and many others want to know is what is happening with the Peter’s Hope project? According to what was said at the “Groundbreaking Ceremony”, the resort should be substantially finished in about 1 more year, and as far as I can tell it has not even started!

  3. This article is just ludicrous. It accuses Clare Keizer, a successful black woman in St. Vincent, from a successful black family in St. VIncent of being anti-black, That is just stupid. Clare loves her blackness, and Vincie blackness, without qualification. And yes, we have lazy people in St. VIncent. We also have lazy people every where.

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