Tonge believes Dominica needs an international airport

Tourism Minister Senator Robert Tonge is of the view that there is a need for an international airport in Dominica.

Speaking on Kairi’s Heng Programme on Monday he said air access to Dominica is critically important for visitors, as well as locals, and a lot is being done to ensure that persons can visit Dominica whenever they choose to without having to overnight on their way.

“In terms of the international airport we know that is something that we need and just recently we also had the ex-Prime Minister, Honourable Denzel Douglas (of St. Kitts) who was here talking to the private sector in terms of whether we should have or should not have an international airport,” he said. “Obviously it is clear that we should have an international airport, but more importantly I think both sides have agreed that there is need for an international airport.”

Recently Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit told students of the North East Comprehensive School in Londonderry that an American firm will be in Dominica to give a presentation to cabinet on a study in relation to the construction of an international airport in Dominica.

He said also that his government is doing everything possible to build an international airport in the North East.

Tonge said a feasibility study is being done on the matter and the government will receive the results of that study in April.

Tonge mentioned further that this has been ongoing for months and these things do not happen overnight.

“You have to choose the right set of people,” he noted.“And we have had so many experiences of the negative or the bad learning of other countries, we have to ensure that we do things in the best possible way. You must have the right company who has the right experience, the right know how, how to do the studies.”

Tonge stated that it is important to ensure that the airport meets all the standards in regards to aviation.

“Sometimes we think of place before aviation,” he remarked. “Aviation has to be the first part, the winds have to be right and the approach has to be right. Once all these things are done you can begin to move forward.”

Tonge pointed out that from his knowledge, the company, which has not been named, is reviewing all of the existing plans of an international airport that have been there and all of the new plans that persons have requested.

“They are looking at all of these things and they will narrow it down to the best couple of options in terms of the aviation,” Tonge explained. “They also have to look at the cost because the cost is going to be significant … you have valleys to fill or you have mountains to cut. You may also have the issue of the relocation of residents, so all of these things have to be taken into consideration.”

Meantime, Tonge said an air access committee is meeting with as many airlines as possible in order to encourage them to come to Dominica.

And according to him, recently LIAT has made some changes to their scheduling which has actually improved access to the island. 

“If you think about it, before every year whenever there was Carnival, whenever there was World Creole Music Festival or any peak period, there were significant delays, significant cancellation of flights,” Tonge remarked. “I don’t think you can remember anybody complaining about Carnival this year. Obviously, what they have done has worked and the importance is to continue to do it so that it can be in the best interest for the country.”

In terms of visiting Dominica via ferry he said, “We continue to work with the Ferry to see how they can improve on the number of days that they come in Dominica.”