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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Airlift still high on regional agenda

KINGSTOWN, St Vincent, Thursday February 9, 2012 – Ministers of tourism and civil aviation across the Eastern Caribbean are meeting today in St Vincent to discuss and devise strategic solutions to tourism and aviation issues and challenges currently confronting the sub-region.

This meeting follows a recent high-level confab in Barbados by the Prime Ministers of the stakeholder governments in Liat Airlines and reflects the high priority that regional leaders continue to place on airlift issues.

Today’s joint meeting is in response to a decision taken at the OECS Council of Tourism Ministers and subsequently endorsed by the OECS Authority in May last year.

The purpose of this meeting, as articulated in the ministerial mandate, is to address matters geared towards improving the attractiveness of the OECS airspace and accessibility of destinations, in order to increase air passenger traffic in the region.

More specifically, the ministers will seek to indentify priority areas for joint action including the development of a Common OECS Air Transport Policy; and the preparation of airlift capacity studies to empirically assess the air service needs of the region, and to guide OECS member states’ efforts at attracting and sustaining airlift.

Another matter to be discussed is the implementation of relevant aspects of the San Juan Accord, which is a set of decisions taken by ministers with responsibility for tourism and international transport of member countries of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in October 2007, when the ministers met to discuss proposals for restructuring the region’s air transport sector, with a view to offering safe, secure and sustainable air services in the Caribbean.

This joint meeting, to be chaired by the prime minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr Ralph Gonsalves, is deemed important given that not all ministers of tourism in the OECS are assigned the civil aviation portfolio. Whilst Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada and St Kitts and Nevis have joint tourism and civil aviation ministerial portfolios, the ministries of tourism and civil aviation are separate in Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Montserrat, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines.

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