BASSETERRE, St Kitts & Nevis: Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Senator Richard Skerritt, wants regional governments to convene with officials of the grounded REDjet airline and has suggested the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) could facilitate such a meeting.
Skerritt, who is the chairman of the CTO, made the offer during the four-day 13th Annual Caribbean Conference on Sustainable Tourism Development, which concluded in Guyana last week.
Skerritt told journalists in Guyana that there was a “pent-up” demand for air travel in the region, especially with the spiralling cost of regional airlift. He said that high air travel cost would have dire consequences on regional tourism in the near future.
He said that REDjet’s recent suspension of its services presents a valuable lesson to be learned about the importance of affordable air transportation.
“You speak to Barbados and Guyana ministers, which I have had the privilege to do with both just within the last week, and both of them will tell you that REDjet was a major asset to them. It also stimulated competition,” Skerritt said. “Caribbean governments need to sit down and discuss whether you are an equity investor or not.
“What is needed to bring about affordable sustainable travel in the Caribbean?
“I hope that by the time we meet for the state of the industry conference in October this year in St. Kitts; what I hoped is that by then there would have been a significant (development) in the region and come to grips with the problem because OECS (Organisation of Easter Caribbean States) ministers met recently and this was the theme.”
Guyanese authorities attempted last week to cool speculation that the country might come to the aid of the ailing airline after officials recently met with Guyana’s ministers of tourism, industry and commerce and works to seek the country’s financial assistance in getting the carrier to resume operations.
The airline is also seeking outside investors, including from Venezuela.
REDjet suspended its operations early last month due to financial troubles, after it complained that it could not compete with other regional airlines that receive government subsidies.