For the first time ever, the OECS Commission was among hundreds of participants at the recently concluded 10th Routes Americas event held in Las Vegas, USA, from February 14 – 16, 2017. Routes Americas is the leading aviation event which brings together representatives from the region’s airlines, airports and tourist destinations to discuss developing trends, new market opportunities, and the evolution of existing services in the rapidly growing aviation industry.
This year, Routes Americas was attended by a record 820 delegates from over 50 countries including some of the most senior decision makers in the international air transportation industry. The event offered participants extensive networking opportunities geared towards fostering high value relationships with some of the most influential aviation professionals from across the region.
The OECS Commission’s Tourism Specialist, Dr. Lorraine Nicholas, delivered a presentation on the topic: ‘Aviation Challenges of Island Tourism: could open skies be the answer’ during which she discussed the proposed OECS Air Services Agreement as a key mechanism to improve connectivity within the OECS region; and enhance prospects for OECS airline operators by substantially expanding the economic and geographical space within which they operate. The need to develop and promote an enabling regulatory environment for OECS airlines within the single OECS economic space was underscored, given the importance of developing and sustaining smaller, third tier aircraft to serve leaner OECS markets.
Dr. Nicholas concluded her presentation by addressing the question posed: could open skies be the answer to the region’s aviation challenges? The Tourism Specialist contended that “the removal of legal and regulatory commercial barriers to air service development through the OECS Air Services Agreement should by no means be deemed a panacea for challenges of intra-regional travel, but rather seen as one important element of a package of measures to enhance intra-regional travel.” She posits that “efforts to reverse the decline in intra-OECS air travel will require a multi-faceted approach that encompasses not only regulatory actions, but also fiscal and promotional measures.”
Other speakers at Routes Americas 2017 included the President & CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council, the President & CEO of the United States Travel Association, the Director of the Office of International Aviation at the United States Department of Transportation, the CEO of Embraer, and the International Air Transport Association’s regional Vice President for the Americas.
The OECS Member States of Antigua & Barbuda, the British Virgin Islands (BVI), Martinique, Saint Lucia, and St. Kitts & Nevis were represented at Routes Americas 2017, with Antigua & Barbuda, the BVI and Martinique mounting promotional booths. Having experienced Routes for the first time, St. Lucia’s Minister of Tourism, Hon. Dominic Fedee deemed the experience to be a very rewarding one, following several meetings, particularly with airlines.
The OECS is strongly considering a joint representation of the region at a future Routes event. Participation of the OECS Commission at Routes Americas 2017 was funded under the OECS 10th EDF Economic Integration and Trade of the OECS Region Project.