Key stakeholders agree on action plan to improve OECS intra-regional travel
CASTRIES, St Lucia -- Tourism and civil aviation officials, airline representatives and regulators, as well as regional and international organisations, assembled in Antigua and Barbuda on April 22 to discuss and validate the findings emerging from a study commissioned by the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) to empirically investigate the key factors that inhibit the growth of intra-regional travel.
The impressive representation of all of the key players in tourism and civil aviation in the region was regarded as testimony to the critical importance of the matters to be discussed and the urgency with which they need to be resolved.
The consultants for the study were advised to approach the project with the following key guiding principles:
• The study must add critical value to work already undertaken on the air transportation sector in the region; and
• Should offer viable, practical resolutions to the challenges related to air transportation.
At the Antigua workshop the officials engaged in intense deliberations on:
1. The dynamics of the OECS intra-regional travel market
2. The structure of airfares
3. Airline network connectivity; and
4. The legal and regulatory framework.
These discussions culminated in general consensus on practical solutions to address issues inhibiting the optimal expansion of intra-OECS travel, some of which include:
• Adjustments to OECS destination product and promotion strategies to attract increased visitation from neighbouring islands;
• Arriving at a feasible approach to the reduction of TFCs (taxes, fees and charges) on airline tickets for intra-OECS travel, based on sound financial and economic analyses undertaken jointly by the OECS Commission, the ECCB and OECS member states’ ministries of finance;
• The establishment of a one stop security check system;
• The development of an OECS MASA (multilateral air services agreement) consistent with Article 19.8 of the Revised Treaty of Basseterre, which calls for the establishment of a single Economic Union area air space.
The meeting was funded by 10th EDF. The OECS member states of Antigua and Barbuda, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts and Nevis, Montserrat, Saint Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines were represented. Delegates from Martinique were also in attendance. Airlines represented were LIAT, SVG Air, Grenadine Airways, Fly Montserrat, Air Antilles and Air Caraibe.
The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority, the Caribbean Development Bank, the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, the International Air Transport Association and CARICOM were also represented at the workshop.