(Photo Credit: BVI Platinum News)
The discussion of the airport development and runway expansion is expected to return to the public sphere, as Premier and Minister for Finance, Hon. Andrew Fahie announced that he is being bombarded with mentions that the extension is linked to airlift development, which is essential for various revenue injectors.
The Premier, while speaking at a town hall meeting with various cruise line executives earlier this month, commented that he was against the various airport expansion plans previously discussed, but now after seeing figures, he is of a different opinion.
Hon. Fahie stated that he has been inundated with reasoning about why the matter of airport development should be pursued.
“That (airlift) has been one of the areas the cruise lines have been stressing. Also, in terms of larger hotels, they’ve been stressing that, also in the financial services industry with economic substance coming on, they have been stressing that. As you know, we’re moving towards medical schools, they’ve been stressing that,” Hon. Fahie said.
The Premier explained that he was amongst those against the expansion, but he noted that he saw figures that support the case for the expansion. However, the Premier mentioned that the decision to expand will have to be a public on.
“I just want to let people know that it’s a conversation that we have to have. I know that for some it’s not a topic that some want to hear, and I must admit that as Premier, when I ran I was 40 percent for it and 60 percent against.”
“Being a student of mathematics and revenue engineering, I know that numbers don’t lie, interpretations of numbers do. The numbers that are showing the importance of this for the economy is a conversation that we must have. It would be a difficult conversation, but if we got the Belongers one handled, this one is a piece of cake. We’ll get this one handled too,” Hon. Fahie said.
“We would discuss it and look about the pros and cons of it for our economy, but I am glad that it came up…not from me, but I needed to piggyback on it to let you know that all of the industries are pointing in this direction, so it is a conversation very soon that we must have,” the Premier added.
Hon. Fahie’s comments were in response to a suggestion that was made by a local tourism stakeholder. The stakeholder during the meeting questioned the possibility of the Territory becoming a home port for cruise ships.
This suggestion was responded to by Sandra Weir, the VP of Destination Development and Government Relations for Norwegian Cruise Line. Weir explained that in order for this home port suggestion to become a possibility, the Territory would need to improve airlift.
The Norwegian cruise line executive said, “We need airlift, that is your most important thing. Being a home port, you need airlift. You need good hotels for the people to stay in, because they do want to come in a day or two before, everybody is worried about missing their ship. They want to make sure they’re here and with plenty of time they want to explore the islands, they need some good land background; so if you need to work on anything you need to lengthen those runways.”
She further alluded that an expanded runway will increase air traffic for the Territory as the BVI would be able to have direct United Kingdom (UK) flights. In mentioning the UK flights, Weir said, “Christine and I’ve been saying the whole time, why don’t we see direct flights from the UK here, because we’ve all been getting a lot of UK customers. You create that demand. You get them here and we’ll come pick them up, but we need to rely on you to create that.”