As Turks & Caicos gears up to play host to the World Travel Awards for the third time, Breaking Travel News catches up with John Smith, chief executive of Turks & Caicos Airports Authority to discuss the ambitious US$10m redevelopment of passenger facilities taking place at Providenciales International Airport.
Breaking Travel News: How are passenger numbers at Turks & Caicos Airports?
John Smith: Providenciales International Airport accounts for half of the one million passengers that flock the shores of the Turks and Caicos Islands. The other half travel via cruise ship to the Capital, Grand Turk.
BTN: You recently announced a US$10m redevelopment of passenger facilities at Providenciales International Airport. Why was this an appropriate time to embark upon these upgrades?
JS: With increased passenger traffic, we foresee better opportunities for the future of tourism in these islands with a larger facility. It is important to make our passengers comfortable and plan for the increase in movements for years to come. With growth, comes progress, so we plan to meet and exceed current market demands.
BTN: How will travellers benefit from the work due to take place?
JS: Passengers will benefit with more check in counters, more space for their departure and arrival experience, more retail stores and more bathroom facilities for the ladies as well as gentlemen.
BTN: How did the runway expansion plans go?
JS: The Runway was completed on-time and to specifications to handle the design aircraft (B777-300ER). The aerodrome was subsequently inspected and certificated by the Turks & Caicos Islands Civil Aviation Authority, the Runway is currently categorized as 4E Non-instrument.
BTN: Last year you announced a private aircraft terminal at Providenciales– what impact has this had on the luxury travel market to the Turks and Caicos Islands? Why is this an important market for you?
JS: The Turks and Caicos Islands is considered to be a luxury destination with a number of high end properties that cater to affluent travellers. This was a natural progression to offer these travellers a choice in FBO handling. The increased competition would encourage handlers to offer better services and the clients would benefit.
BTN: JetBlue recently made its inaugural flight into Turks & Caicos – are you in talks with any other carriers who are planning to launch new services to the destination?
JS: The TCIAA is always in talks with new carriers to encourage them to bring passengers to the islands. We encourage new carriers through our new entrants’ policy that offers certain concessions for a new airline and we hope to be able to announce another airline shortly, but we are not in a position to do so at the moment.
BTN: What key markets will you be focusing on in coming months?
JS: The North American Market has always had a stable flow of passengers, we hope to continue this relationship, but also open up routes from Europe to these islands.
BTN: Will you be looking to tap into any new emerging markets?
JS: As the North American Market has shown so much promise, we intend to tap into different parts of Canada and the USA that do not currently have direct flights and possible open up new direct routes for better point to point travel.
BTN: What are your key priorities at present?
JS: Our key priority would be to have better utilisation of airports slots to allow optimum passenger facilitation and minimise flight delays as well as passenger discomfort.
BTN: What do you consider the main challenges for the Airports Authority for the next 12 months?
JS: Our main challenge will be to commence construction of the terminal expansion project, yet maintain full operations of the existing terminal facility for the upcoming busy winter travel season. We must strike a balance for the benefit of all of our stakeholders.
BTN: Can you comment on the significance of hosting the World Travel Awards on island next month?
JS: We are honoured to host this prestigious event once again. We are happy to have all of our travel partners come to the Turks & Caicos Islands to participate in such an event and see the progress that has taken place since we last hosted the World Travel Awards .
BTN: Can you comment on any new trends you have been noticing among travellers?
JS: Travellers are taking advantage of the summer periods and we no longer see a steep decline in passenger figures for August and September, but travellers are coming all year around and that is exactly the boost that our economy needs.