OUR ACCESS PROBLEM

anguillian
By anguillian January 18, 2016 10:21 Updated

 

 

In last week’s edition of this paper, Minister of Infrastructure, the Honourable Curtis Richardson outlined five hopeful projects for 2016. I was particularly pleased that two of those projects related to gateways into Anguilla. For some time we have been hearing concerns from the tourism sector about access to Anguilla. Some tourism officials and hoteliers view our access problem as the number one obstacle to the further development of our tourism sector. According to them, it is just too much trouble to get to Anguilla, so visitors choose other destinations instead. Additionally, even for those who do come, their experience is marred by many stops and changeovers encountered en route to Anguilla. I believe both residents and visitors agree that they would prefer if access to Anguilla was a whole lot easier. The question though is how do we solve this problem?

According to Minister Richardson, investments are to be made in both the development of the Blowing Point Ferry Port and the expansion of the Clayton J Lloyd International Airport. We are aware from data provided by the Statistics Department that the vast majority of visitors to Anguilla enter via our ferry port. The questions we must ask ourselves before any investment is made in these gateways include:

• How many visitors are we hoping to attract to Anguilla each year?
• From which markets will our visitors be coming?
• What mode of air transportation is being used by visitors – commercial airlines or private jets?
• What level of occupancy is required for our hotel industry to thrive?
• Based on the answers to the above, should the ferry port or the airport be the main port of entry?
• Should both ports be equally developed so that residents and visitors have more options to get to Anguilla?

The answers to these questions will raise other issues such as how much reliance should continue to be placed on the Princess Juliana International Airport. In relation to Anguilla, aircraft size, flight frequency, runway length, land acquisition etc. are all issues to grapple with. I trust that Minister Richardson and his team are compiling the required information and examining all these issues closely before engaging any developer interested in a public/ private partnership in relation to these projects.

While it is critical that urgent steps be taken to deal with our access issue, it is even more critical that we get it right. Our historical and cultural linkages with St Martin/St Maarten dictate that the ferry port will always be an important gateway to Anguilla. Plans for airport development must therefore be mindful of this. Additionally, any potential negative impacts that airport expansion may have on the livelihood of ferry and charter boat operators must be mitigated. In other words, a developer interested in either port has to weigh how the existence of the other port will affect their investment – and Government has to be concerned that livelihoods are not threatened.

Whatever solution is arrived at, I trust that it would be based on sound data, consideration of the pertinent issues and also be relevant, dynamic and sustainable. I believe I speak for both residents and returning visitors when I say a solution is long overdue. We look forward to hearing more about the development plans and proposals as 2016 progresses. Hopefully, we can finally put this pesky access issue to bed.

anguillian
By anguillian January 18, 2016 10:21 Updated

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