Ottley signs MOU to reduce the cost of travel to Dutch Caribbean Islands; by making it more affordable, efficient, and sustainable
PHILIPSBURG— The Honorable Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT), Mr. Omar Ottley was a part of fifteen (15) dignitaries of the six (6) island nations and the Netherlands that expressed their commitment to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). Meanwhile, the Chief Executive Officer of the Princess Juliana International Airport Operating Company N.V. (PJIAE), Mr. Brian Mingo will serve as a member of the Steering Committee and Action Group which was created simultaneously to work on a joint business plan, which will be delivered within seven (7) months of signing the MOU.
The MOU to work on reducing the cost of airlifts in the ACS and BES islands was signed in Aruba this week. It symbolizes the unification of government and non-government entities involved in public air transport under one umbrella to improve and sustain each of these islands' inter-island air transport systems. Aviation authorities anticipate that once the cost of travel between St. Maarten, Saba, St. Eustatius, Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire is reduced, leisure travel will return to an all-time high. The six islands have committed to forming a Joint Strategic Plan (JSP) "task force" within 30-days, which will be mandated to identify and address the factors affecting inter-island air travel as part of the MOU.
The Dutch Caribbean Cooperation of Airports (DCCA) initiated this MOU to face and resolve the inter-island connectivity issues jointly and to maximize the cooperation between the ACS and BES aviation authorities and agencies. The overall concern is that the cost of airlifts between the islands has skyrocketed, resulting in leisure travel being brought to a ten-year low.
Factors such as increased Airport fees, fuel costs, and insufficient airlift options are some contributors to inter-island travel's high price. These concerns have prompted DCCA to introduce and launch the first Electric Flight in the Caribbean on November 6 in Aruba as the organization looks towards sustainable alternatives to travel that also contribute to lowering our carbon footprint.
“We must recognize that the family ties that bind these islands will be stretched and even broken if inter-island travel costs continue on the present trend. It is no secret that traveling from St. Maarten to St. Eustatius, Curacao, or Aruba costs more than it does to the US. I will do everything possible to change this so people can return to leisure travel and stay connected with friends and family. We cannot continue to see 15-minute flights to neighboring islands that were NAf. 65 not so long ago, now reaching US$350 and more,” Minister Ottley stated.
However, Minister Ottley maintains that while the DCCA is on the right path, travel cost adjustments should not stop within the Dutch Caribbean Islands. "We benefit from visitor arrivals, and tourists have always loved coming to St. Maarten. We must consider initiatives such as US-Pre Clearance to attract domestic rates for travel to and from the US and strengthen cooperation with regional airlines for travel to the British Islands.
The idea here is to make the flying between the islands for everyone, better and affordable. Looking at the electric planes of the near future will also make it even cheaper. We need to do something, and this is the first steps, now the actions", said the Minister.
The upcoming conference days will focus on sustainability-related topics like Built for Experience focusing on Sustainable Tourism, Pushing the limits: changing the Future focusing on Sustainable Airport Operations, Reality Check focusing on current Research and Investments, and Connecting Generations. For more information on the event, please visit the DCCA website at www.dccaairports.com.