Author: Jeevan A. Robinson | Date: 04 May 2015
To date the people of Montserrat have not heard any information from the Premier, Donaldson Romeo, under whose Ministry tourism falls, regarding the potential air access deal for the island that was first reported by this media house, following the sacking of the Director of Tourism last Thursday, April 30th, 2015.
What we reported was the confirmation of an air access deal that would potentially be significant for Montserrat in opening up new gateways to and from the island using Twin Otter, 19 seater type aircraft.
These gateways would include Guadeloupe, St Maarten, and St Kitts and would mean that locals and visitors can fly directly to and from these destinations to Montserrat.
The airline, hoping to bring Montserrat into this exciting new prospect is Caribbean Helicopters Limited (CHL), through its new partnership with regional airline LIAT.
One of the advantages of this potential deal would be the provision for travellers to book directly to Montserrat; a system that no present airline, to include Fly Montserrat, presently provides.
According to information shared with MNI Alive, this deal was being worked on from as far back as July 2014, and is now seemingly coming to fruition for Montserrat. However, a major point was raised last week, following the dismissal of the Tourism Director, whether Montserrat will still be considered for involvement in this new airline venture?
MNI Alive Media spoke directly to an Executive from Caribbean Helicopters Limited (CHL), one of the partners in this new airline. We asked where CHL and their associates stood with Montserrat's inclusion as a part of the air transport network being considered.
Neil A Dickinson, Director, and Accountable Manager with CHL responded to MNI Alive stating;
"It is true that Ms Anita Nightingale in her capacity as Director of Tourism for the Montserrat Government has been working hard with CHL in recent months to actively develop and promote tourism in and, increased air access to and from Montserrat. The conclusion of these combined efforts, was the finalisation of a proposal for the Montserrat Authorities at a recent meeting with Ms. Nightingale and Mr David Duberry – Access Co-ordinator in Antigua. Despite the current circumstances, I am confident that Ms Nightingale remains committed to and, focused on, the continued development of Montserrat and would not wish to see any efforts stall at this stage. We all, believe these efforts represent a considerable opportunity and I can confirm that our proposal has been submitted to the Montserrat Authorities for consideration. CHL is waiting on further dialogue to enable the process to continue."
MNI Alive Media can also confirm that Minister with responsibility for transport, Honourable Paul Lewis, has affirmed his Ministry's commitment to continue to push this air access deal towards reality for Montserrat.
Minister Lewis tells MNI Alive that when he attained his Ministry and began to look into Montserrat's transportation situation at the time, there was a consideration to develop a service from Montserrat to Nevis using islanders, such as those being used presently in air operations to the island. However, his vision then, and still is to improve Montserrat's air access to include twin otter type aircraft. He also stated that at the time last year when he came to office, he also articulated a vision to have Montserrat be a part of an inter-island transport network that included direct access to and from neighbouring islands such as St Kitts and Guadeloupe.
The proposal being considered now includes both those destinations with St Maarten added in with Montserrat.
A plea was made to Premier Romeo by outgoing Tourism Director in stating that projects such as this new airline deal not be diluted because of her termination but instead should be highlighted. The Premier's position remains unclear, despite a public statement sent out last Friday, May 1st, 2015, but omitted any mention of this deal.