ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES — History was made yesterday when the first direct international flight from Toronto to St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) landed at the brand new Argyle International Airport.
“This is a dream of over 50 years by the people and we’ve now brought it to fruition, it’s now a reality. This is, in a sense, a framework for the enlargement of all possibilities,” said Hon. Dr. Ralph E. Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. “We have done so through our own people, our resources and our friends. Our friends have been very varied, some of them do not even talk to each other, but we have come to them.”
A total of 131 passengers consisting of media and tourism officials took flight on a Sunwing B737-800 flight early Tuesday morning from Toronto Pearson International Airport. The day’s theme, ‘Love is in the Air’, could not have been more appropriate: not only was it Valentine’s Day, there was also with love, support and excitement for the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and their long-awaited new international airport. One passenger summed it up when he said he felt “honoured to be part of this historical moment”.
Argyle International Airport got financial support from many countries including Taiwan, Cuba, Iran, Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago, to name a few. “We have the support of three countries through their export credit arrangements to purchase goods and services, the export credit arrangement of Canada, Britain and the U.S.,” added Gonsalves. “This is an international venture and when you see the terminal building, you will notice in its architecture and in its interior decor, that it was done with sense and sensibility and with great love, resonant of our own spirit of our Caribbean civilization and the Vincentian component. So today is joyous.”
The airport’s construction has spanned more than eight years with a US$275 million investment. It has a 9,000-foot runway and was built to handle between 1.2 and 1.4 million passengers a year, with future extensions in mind.
“This is something that we are very proud of. I know a new international airport may seem the norm for a lot of people, but for us, it is the first time we could take wide-body planes,” said Glen Beache, CEO of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Tourism Authority. “This puts us on a different level in terms of moving forward for tourism, investment, agriculture, sporting and business in every sense that we can. My ideal situation for St. Vincent and the Grenadines is that there should be a waiting list for people wanting to get in. I don’t want visitors to feel as if they haven’t left home … that when you look around, you see so many other visitors you feel as if you’re not in a new place and with a new culture to experience new things. The way to control this is the number of rooms you have, and I think that if we can get between 3,500 and 4,000, we’ll be set. We don’t need the daily flights. Three times a week will suit us quite well.”
Beache hopes to have flights accessible by the end of the year, with numerous airline contracts currently being reviewed. Visit discoversvg.com for more information.