Saint Lucia’s Tourism Minister, Dr. Ernest Hilaire, has spoken up on behalf of LIAT, while observing the need for regional travel capacity and acknowledging the airline’s shortcomings.
“We need LIAT,” Hilaire told a meeting of the Island’s Tourism Advisory Committee on Thursday.
“We actually do not have high regional travel right now and regional travel was probably our second largest source of arrivals in 2019 and we virtually have no regional travel and we are already up to 75-80 percent of what we were in 2019 without a significant regional travel component. And it is an issue that I am going to raise with the Prime Minister in a very detailed way. What can we do to provide greater support to LIAT to get LIAT functioning once again?” The Tourism Minister said.
“The situation that we are in right now shows the foolhardiness of the views that were held in the past about LIAT,” Hilaire declared.
“Yes, we must all agree LIAT was not the best example of a well-run, well-managed company. There are a lot of criticisms of LIAT but we have had experiences over decades that when others came, promised a lot and failed to deliver, we always had to go back and rely on LIAT with all its deficiencies,” Hilaire remarked.
According to the Minister, Saint Lucia was notorious in the last few years for criticising LIAT, undermining the airline, and ‘really cheering for LIAT’s downfall’.
“That’s a fact. And look at what COVID has exposed. It has really exposed out naked behinds. All the others that came to promise and said they were committed to this region, where are they and now we are begging for LIAT to come back,” Hilaire asserted.
“Just imagine if LIAT had fifteen, 20 flights a day into Saint Lucia with all its deficiencies wouldn’t we welcome that than what we have now? The point is we need a regional travel capacity that we have influence over, that we can control and we know operates in our best interest,” he told the Tourism Advisory Committee meeting.
He said Saint Lucia needs regional travel capacity that will serve its interests.
In this regard, the Tourism Minister spoke of the need to sit down to discuss how Saint Lucia can contribute to getting LIAT functioning a lot better than it is currently and increase the airline’s capacity because this country’s tourism industry needs a strong region travel capacity.
“I can tell you as the Minister also responsible for Creative Industries and the organizing of Carnival we’re missing it. We are doing very well, but a lot of the visitors we have that are going to be coming in are coming in from international markets and not so many from the regional markets,” Hilaire explained.
And while noting that Caribbean Airlines had added ‘a couple more flights’, the Minister said that’s still not enough.