St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Camillo Gonsalves, says the construction of the Commercially Important People (CIP) lounge at the Argyle International Airport (AIA) will be beneficial to the country’s tourism product.
Some US$7 million is expected to be invested in the lounge.
Gonsalves was addressing the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) nearly two weeks ago between AIA and Kayan Holdings for Fixed Based Operations (FBO) and the CIP.
Gonsalves said AIA is the largest infrastructural investment in SVG, and in many ways one of the most important pieces of infrastructure that this or any government ever constructed in the country. He added that it is integral to government’s developmental aspirations not only in the field of tourism but in the entire ancillary spill-offs.
“Having built the airport and as it exists now, the Prime Minister indicated a priority of this government is to make AIA work and make it work successfully,” he said. “One of the things we have to do is attract investment and attract people who have experience in the aviation business to help us leverage the advantages and the potential of the AIA.”
Gonsalves said Uday Nayak of Kayan Holdings has demonstrated in St. Kitts and Nevis that he is a good investor who knows how to make this type of operations work. Giving an explanation as to what an FBO is, Gonsalves said it is an area where an investor, in this case Nayak, offers aviation services of different types.
The lounge, he said, is also very important, particularly to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and the type of tourism product that the country offers.
Gonsalves said SVG has two islands — Mustique and Canouan — inhabited by CIPs, adding that very often people of a certain net worth expect a certain level of service when they land at airports. He noted that because this type of service was not traditionally offered in SVG, these people found it necessary to stop somewhere else en route to Mustique and Canouan.
“This lounge will provide that experience, will make people feel special from the minute they enter the borders of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and will make their vacation begin from the minute they land,” said Gonsalves.
He said he knows that as an organization, Kayan Holdings expects the CIP lounge to do excellent business in SVG, given the volumes of wealthy people who already travel to the country and also because Nayak and his team will drive traffic to SVG for their FBO services for private and leased aircraft and for the wealthy people. He thanked Nayak for his investment and said he expects great things from the FBO and the lounge.
“It will enhance what the airport does and will enhance our aviation and tourism services,” the minister said.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said that when he first met Nayak, his two immediate initiatives at that time concerned the FBO and training for people involved in the tourism sector at all levels. He stated that every passenger passing through AIA is important as they help to pay for staff and operations at the airport.
“I don’t want anybody to feel that we only think that is what they call commercially important persons, but I just want to reaffirm that everybody who comes through here is commercially important.”
The prime minister said the fact that a private sector entity is prepared to come and invest indicates that there is confidence in AIA and when completed it would add prestige and increase the availability of services to Argyle.