CHTA prez says despite millions invested in airlines, airlift still inadequate!

With talks of an American Airlines-Delta merger hitting the Internet in the wake of AMR Corporations bankruptcy application, St Lucia’s Minister of Tourism hopes to renegotiate the deal made between the previous government and the airline.
On Thursday January 19 2012, Tourism Minister, Lorne Theophilus paid a courtesy call to American Airlines (AA) senior executives Peter Dolara and Gary Alfson in Miami before heading to the CHTA Marketplace which took place last weekend on Paradise Island in the Bahamas.
A few weeks ago, Theophilus told the STAR in an exclusive interview that the deal made between AA and St Lucia had plunged the country into debt and added, “it cannot continue in its current form.”
Last year during heated election campaigns, the St Lucia Labour Party had accused the then Tourism Minister Allen Chastanet of signing a bad deal with American Airlines, however, according to a press release from the St Lucia Tourist Board, Theophilus expressed gratitude to the senior executives of AA, stating “American Airlines has undoubtedly contributed immensely to the record levels of arrivals we have seen from key gateways out of the US. My team and I eagerly look forward to building on that collaboration in 2012 and beyond,” adding that AA is a “valued partner.”
A news update posted by Caribbean360.com, stated that the meeting with AA’s executive for the Caribbean division was positive and will be followed by further sessions to iron out future relations between the major carrier and the new administration. It was further reported that the likely focus of future discussions would incorporate revenue guarantees and schedule adjustments for the country.
But how successful will these talks be with American Airlines now restructuring its company and news of a possible merger?
Former president of the St Lucia Hotel and Tourism Association, Anthony Bowen says St Lucia should not worry too much if the carrier maintains its full flight occupancy. “One cannot imagine American Airlines not coming into St Lucia,” he said. “It is a legacy carrier with a huge gateway out of Miami and therefore it is in everybody’s interest that we try to get some sort of meeting with the present Tourist Board and the airline.”
Bowen applauded the tourism minister for taking the initiative to open talks with the carrier in an effort to build on the country’s relations with AA.
American Airlines filed for bankruptcy in December last year creating fear of possible increases in fares for consumers. While fliers wait to see how the bankruptcy case will affect AA’s schedules and fares, the incoming CEO of AMR said the airline would probably reduce its flight schedule “modestly” while restructuring in bankruptcy court.
Meanwhile, president of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA), Josef Forstmayr in addressing the opening of Caribbean Marketplace at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas said ticket prices are still too high and remain insufficient to sustain the industry. This statement comes after airlines from the US raised ticket prices nine times in 2011 to Caribbean destinations. Forstmayr further estimated in 2010 the Caribbean governments “collectively paid US$45 million to secure airlift—only to find that our airlift is still inadequate and way too expensive for our visitors.”

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