It’s one thing to know that travel agent associations are lobbying the government on agents’ behalf. It’s another to actually hear it and see it in action.
TORONTO — Delays in the final construction phases and a hiring snag have pushed back the opening date for St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ new Argyle International Airport to the end of March 2016.
Glen Beache, CEO of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Tourism Authority, said construction crews are putting the finishing touches on the US$240 million project, plus the search is ongoing for a CEO to oversee the airport after the top candidate had to bow out. “The final details take time,” said Beache. “It’s a big deal for us. We’ve never done an international airport before.”
Although a fall opening would have been ideal to capture the winter sun market, the SVG diaspora travels year-round, especially in June and July, he added. There will be plenty of passengers for this 32-island nation known for its sailing, eco-tourism and luxury hotel product.
“It’s always been about access and direct flights. This airport is a huge game-changer for us,” he said. Airlines including Air Canada, WestJet and Sunwing are still top choices for direct routes once the airport opens. And “nothing is going to happen without Toronto. Toronto is one of the big three gateways for us.”
Now that the airport is nearing completion, St. Vincent and the Grenadines is seeing more interest from international hotel brands. Although he’s partial to the boutique and more often than not upscale properties the islands are known for, Beache says he realizes there’s a need for well-known resort chains. “I think we need that, to give the destination some legitimacy.”
An announcement about a new hotel partner could be coming soon from the Prime Minister, he added.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines will never be a mass-market destination and that suits Beache just fine. “The most rooms I would like to see is 3,500 to 4,000,” he said. The current room count is about 2,100.
One major hotel site on Canouan recently underwent massive changes. The sprawling resort, once owned by a Swiss-Italian banker and managed at various stages by venerable names including Rosewood and Raffles, was essentially levelled and rebuilt on a much smaller scale as Pink Sands Canouan. A management announcement is expected in the near future, said Beache. Another island resort could also be in the works.