St. Vincent and the Grenadines holds groundbreaking ceremony of its first International Airport

ST. VINCENT – In a move that promises to make St. Vincent and the Grenadines more accessible to travelers the world over, Prime Minister Ralph E. Gonsalves and the International Airport Development Company (IADC) – the state-owned entity that will manage the airport – presided over a hillside ceremony in mid-July to mark the start of construction on the country’s first-ever international airport. Actual construction is slated to begin in August.

Set to replace St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ current E.T. Joshua Airport by late 2011, the Argyle International Airport – so named for the coastal area on St. Vincent that it will occupy – will effectively open up the 32-island nation to non-stop and direct flights from key U.S. and Canadian gateways, Latin America and such international capitals as London – driving new arrivals, generating jobs and spurring investment in tourism, commercial and agricultural sectors.

Insofar as the existing airport can only accept short-range turbo-prop aircraft from neighboring islands, St. Vincent and the Grenadines has previously been unable to significantly expand its air infrastructure – a vital ingredient in any Caribbean islands’ developmental plans.

“News of our first international airport with its world-class design is already sparking new investments,” said Minister of Tourism Glen Beache. “While our off-the-beaten path offerings, castaway charm and pristine nature are what make St. Vincent and the Grenadines so alluring, we’re confident that improving our accessibility will lift our visibility in our key markets – even as we’re determined to safeguard those very assets that make us worth visiting. The only difference – and it’s a big one – will be the ease with which our international guests can get here.”

The US$217 million project is the country’s largest, most expansive venture in its history. With 375 acres of land to be developed on the eastern coast of St. Vincent, the facility will feature a 9,000-foot runway, able to accommodate Boeing 747-400, 737, and 767, Airbus 300 and 320, as well as MD80 jet aircraft. In addition, a modern, well-conceived 53,820 square-foot terminal will give St. Vincent and the Grenadines the ability to cope with further future expansion.

Work will begin on the site in August. Upon completion, the airport expects to employ some 400 workers. At that time, E.T. Joshua Airport, in operation since 1960, will be converted for use by commercial properties and businesses. Final plans and construction on that 63-acre site will proceed once most of the work on Argyle International Airport has been completed.

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