Asserting that the planned pullout of Virgin Atlantic from Saint Lucia in June next year is an issue of national importance, Tourism Minister Dominic Fedee has called for more common sense and less politics in response to the situation.
Fedee told St Lucia Times that he’s very confused by the utterances from the opposition, including those from opposition leader Philip J. Pierre.
The Minister noted that Pierre had offered the government some advice.
“I don’t think we are here to accept policies that have failed Saint Lucia; we are here to take the country forward,” he explained.
According to the Tourism Minister, the Virgin matter is simple.
“The payout would have cost us 20 percent of our annual budget,” he said in regard to the subsidy requested by the carrier.
“To do so for seven percent of the business – the math does not work. It’s not a good business decision,” Fedee observed.
“We have found the decision very difficult to say ‘Yes’ because we have in the last 8 months received 8 additional weekly flights on the American market – seven new weekly flights from Miami and one new weekly flight starting December19, 2019 out of Chicago,” the Minister stated.
He noted that as a result it was very difficult to accept the investment terms put forward by Virgin Atlantic.
Fedee asserted that Virgin made a business decision, the same as Saint Lucia has done.
“I want to give you every assurance that this is in the best interest of Saint Lucia,” he told St Lucia Times.
Fedee disclosed that the demand in the UK market continues to be strong for the moment.
Nevertheless he revealed that Saint Lucia is concerned post Brexit because the business environment in the UK would be very hard for not just travel, but for a number of industries.
He expressed the view that the announcement that UK is going to leave the European Union ‘deal or no deal’ scenario is one that should concern all Caribbean destinations.
Fedee recalled that in the 1990’s when Philip J. Pierre was Tourism Minister, the then Labour government took a decision to not pay American Airlines $US 1.5 million and the carrier effectively pulled out.
“I think at that time Saint Lucia depended on American Airlines more than we do on Virgin now,” the Minister told St Lucia Times.