by Eulana Weekes
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): Premier of Nevis – Hon Mark Brantley, during his January 26 press conference, confirmed that a public-private partnership between the Nevis Island Administration and investor, Mr Patrick Drahi, will seek to enhance the infrastructure and operations at the Vance W Amory International Airport.
“Great as the idea may be, we all understand that we can’t move unless we can find the resources- the financial resources to do the development, and so we started some conversations with a significant investor on the island, Mr Patrick Drahi and [from] those conversations, he is the owner, we are told, of the largest private jet in the world. He has made Nevis home, and he has invested significantly on the island already. So, we started conversations with Mr Drahi to try to forge a public-private partnership where he will bring the money to finance the infrastructural improvements that we want to do at the Vance Amory Airport.”
Brantley explained, “The negotiations thus far contemplate that what we will do, rather than that becoming a burden on the taxpayer to repay, we will seek to work together to enhance operations at the airport and to make that airport a revenue centre, a revenue stream and what we will pay back those sums at a nominal interest rate of two percent, we will pay back those sums from the proceeds of the airport itself.”
Considering that the local tourism product is at the higher end of the market, and individuals onboard private jets are the demographic that Nevis’ tourism serves, the decision, according to the Premier, is to create a high-end private jet facility that would allow most of the world’s private jets to land at the Vance W Amory International Airport.
Brantley informed that the airport project would include the extension and reinforcement of the runway, a jet parking space and the provision of jet fuel, which has the potential to provide an additional revenue boost for the island.
The last investment that was made at the Vance W Amory International Airport was more than 20 years ago and the Premier stated: “it has outlived its usefulness in its current form.”
There have been criticisms by the opposition – the Nevis Reformation Party, about the operations of the airport and the lack of direct flights to the island. However, Brantley mentioned that the hotel sector also has complained that the airlift situation “has limited their ability to grow.”
“In terms of investors, many have come and have said that- that is a major impediment to them investing; we have homeowners here, wealthy individuals, who own private jets. They have said to us that they would like to have the ability to fly directly to Nevis, to park their private jet at the Vance Amory International airport and to have access. It has been difficult for the Nevis Island Administration to attract traffic to our facility, that has passed its usefulness in terms of the infrastructure that is there. I believe that if we are fair, we would all conclude that the airport is in dire need of development and if Nevis is to be taken to the next level of development, that transportation, including air transportation, is critical.”
Premier Brantley said that the agreement between the investor, Mr Patrick Drahi and the Nevis Island Administration is not yet complete, but he is pleased with the negotiations thus far.