KINGSTON: Jamaica’s Minister of Transport and Works, Mike Henry, says that regional ministers of transport would meet shortly to discuss the possibility of an integrated regional airline.
Henry, speaking at a seminar last week – Air travel in the Caribbean: Challenges and Opportunities – admitted that there had been an exchange of ideas with his counterparts from Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago. He said further talks had been scheduled this month when the ministers would “discuss the development of integrated air travel for the Caribbean: how to make it economically viable, how to develop better interconnectivity and how to make it attainable”.
Henry said that even without an integrated regional carrier, the Caribbean has to ensure that it benefits from the global travel industry, adding that this would entail creating hubs and adopting a structured open skies policy.
Henry said Jamaica had already signed open skies agreements with 46 countries, including Brazil, Turkey, Canada and Singapore. He said the aim is to position Jamaica as an international hub.
Noel Lynch, Barbados’ former Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation said a single Caribbean airline, owned and operated by regional interests, is the best option for CARICOM.
Lynch said air transport was integral to the region’s economic, cultural and social development. He said the best model for a regional airline was one which “leverages the resources and expertise in most of our countries, coupled with a combination of successful, home grown policies”.
Challenging unspoken objections, he said the region had already proven that it could unite its resources and talents to produce world class institutions, namely the University of The West Indies – where the seminar was held – and West Indies cricket. He said the region had “received global acclaim” for “the efforts that we have undertaken collectively”.
The publication, Caribbean Tourism: Perceptions, Economic Development and Air Travel was also launched at the seminar. The book is the first issue in the series of working policy papers on issues related to tourism and development in the Caribbean.