Presentation in progress inside a hangar at the airport. (Grégory Rohard photo)
MARIGOT--In connection with the fourth edition of the Caribbean Aviation CaribAvia Meet-Up conference held in Simpson Bay Resort on Tuesday, attendees were invited to a presentation at Grand Case Airport on Wednesday where President Daniel Gibbs was one of the speakers.
The purpose was to give airline executives and tourism partners an update on the projects at the airport whose management operations are sub-contracted to French company EDEIS which manages 16 airports in French territories.
“With EDEIS and our regular airlines we are working hand-in-hand to create a high-quality service on the French side, in terms of a choice for business travel companies and their VIP clients, especially for transfers to and from St. Barths,” said Gibbs in his address.
In addition, he said 2019 could see the arrival of a new airline from the US Virgin Islands.
“Plans are currently being made with the civil aviation authorities to establish the routes. I met with Albert Bryan Jr., Governor of the US Virgin Islands, at the last annual CHRIS [Caribbean Hotel and Resort Investment Summit – Ed.] conference in Miami, to plan a visit to St. Martin to move forward on this important issue.
“Additional projects are under development to meet European standards and facilitate the arrival of other regional airlines. Furthermore, important work has been underway, this year, to meet the needs of our airlines operators and their clientele:
“These include waterproofing the terminal’s roof, replacing the airport’s perimeter fences, and creating paid parking, major maintenance of runways, and a 30-metre extension of the runway at the end of this year to better suit the airline companies, and the reconstruction of the security perimeter of the airport.
“We have a bigger extension project of 300 metres for the runway, but we’ve decided to postpone this project and put our priority on the security of the existing infrastructures, given the circumstances post-[Hurricane] Irma. We have planned to come back to this project later.
“In the meantime, we are working with the French government to facilitate the visa policy for the Caribbean islands to enter French St. Martin because we know it is a sure way to increase air traffic. It is not simple, as we need a national agreement, but we hope to have a result on this issue at the end of the year.
“Thanks to the ministerial decree of April 18, 2012, we already have a short-stay visa for Anguilla, Antigua, Barbuda, Barbados and St. Kitts and Nevis. Discussions with the French State are underway to examine the possibility of including in this decree other Caribbean islands, such as the Dominican Republic, under specific conditions.
“It is very important for the Collectivité of St. Martin to support EDEIS in its development projects, because our common interest is to see our regional airport grow and complement Princess Juliana International Airport.
“I know EDEIS is planning to construct the kind of airport that will go hand-in-glove with the tourism strategy that I put in place for my country. I am convinced we will continue this fundamental work for the interest of our island as well as the interest of the visitors who like our Caribbean destination.
“Before concluding, let me warmly thank CaribAvia and its chairman, Commander Bud Slabbaert, for having chosen St. Martin for its annual Meetup conference. It is a great honour to host this significant international aviation event here in Grand Case. This choice clearly demonstrates CaribAvia’s strong support of our regional airport, and the faith you have in our potential.”