There are many matters that the recently-formed Anguilla Tourism Advisory Council may have in mind – but one of the initiatives being looked at is the possibility of direct flights from the United States mainland to Anguilla.
The members of the Council include representatives of the major and smaller hotels and villas in Anguilla, as well as others from the Ministry of Tourism and the Anguilla Tourist Board. They, including officials from the Government and the Governor’s Office, had their first monthly meeting at the Executive Council’s Chambers on Tuesday, January 22.
Speaking earlier in the afternoon at the Anguilla Government’s press conference, Mr. Cardigan Connor, Parliamentary Secretary, Tourism said: “I have put together what is regarded as an Anguilla Tourism Advisory Council with the support of the Ministry. In that grouping we have representatives from the major hotels: Tiago from Belmond Cap Juluca; Jose’ from Four Seasons; Cherrille Hughes from Paradise Cove – representing the smaller hotels; Janine Edwards for the villa properties; Peter Parles from the restaurant sector; and Fred Thompson who is an advisor. Fred has been a long time member of the Anguilla Tourist Board and has spent over thirty years at Carimar, thus bringing quite a lot to the table. The Executive is made up of myself, as chairperson, with Larry Franklin, Permanent Secretary, Tourism; and Donna Banks, chairperson of the Anguilla Tourist Board.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Connor was asked at the Government’s press conference to comment on the negotiations between the public and private sector with respect to the possibility of direct flights to Anguilla from Miami. He replied: “At this point it is mainly with Nick Wagner, who has a direct link with American Airlines, but we are open to other negotiations with Jet Blue as well as United Airlines. At this stage, we expect to take a paper to Executive Council next week Thursday. Time lines are involved and we will share some of that information at a meeting with stakeholders today.
“The fact is that everybody wants it [direct flights to Anguilla]. Anguillians want it; Government wants it; and the stakeholders want it. When we are passionate about something, we have to find a way of getting it done – and if the bottom line is about finances, I think that’s the least because that investment will bring a lot more.”
Mr. Connor continued: “The whole idea is to start negotiations now [so that] within six to eight months, when the airline will be available we will be ready for business. But a lot depends on how well you sell it. You will be paying for the seats that are vacant, but I don’t know the percentage at this point – but again it is in Anguilla’s best interest that Anguillians can take advantage to travel to Miami. I think it will make travel easier for those who want a quick weekend or three or four days in Miami…”
Chief Minister and Minister of Tourism, Mr. Victor Banks, commented: “We, as Government, are partnering with the private sector on this occasion as opposed to other occasions. We want to ensure that there is a deliberate fund that takes care of the flight-guarantee costs. So before we even get down to the negotiations, we want to ensure that whatever that fund is, we have a clear understanding from the private sector, what contribution they will make – as well as what contribution Government will make. Of course it will be proportionate, but it will be something that gives some certainty to the matter.
“I have no doubt that this flight, once it is put in place, will be a success flight. It represents an aircraft that can bring 76 passengers, or it can take off with 66, fully loaded, and it is not that much larger in capacity than the ATR 62 that came from Puerto Rico. Right now, I believe that Miami is replacing Puerto Rico as downtown Anguilla. As a consequence the number of persons who used to go to Puerto Rico are now going to Miami.”
The Chief Minister said that Government and the private sector were looking forward to direct US flights to Anguilla. “We are hoping that, building on this, we will create a better case for the expansion of our [airport] facilities here in Anguilla as well.”
This article has been republished from www.theanguillian.com