Guyana’s aviation sector will record a modest but important milestone today when it commences the hosting of the 15th Annual General Meeting of the Caribbean Aviation Handlers Association (CAHA) in the country’s capital, Georgetown.
The meeting which will be held at the recently created Symposium Conference Centre at Roraima Airways’ Duke Lodge Hotel, is expected to take an intense look at the readiness of the regional aviation industry to adequately measure up to the all-round aviation-related developmental needs of the Caribbean, a source close to the organizers told the Stabroek Business.
Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson will deliver the feature address at this morning’s opening session.
While the broad issue of continually raising operating standards at regional airports is expected to be part of the preoccupation of the forum, Stabroek Business understands that the discourses will venture into a range of other aviation-related areas including climate change and its implications for aviation, weather, ramp security and aviation safety. This newspaper understands that a number of airlines serving the Caribbean are represented at the meeting. Representatives of manufacturers and distributors of machinery and equipment used in the aviation industry including the French Company TLD and Florida Core of the United States are also expected to be represented at the meeting.
Yesterday morning a source close to the local organizers told Stabroek Business that the Canadian airline West Jet, which was due to be present at the meeting had to pull out on account of the fact that the company’s designated representative at the forum had encountered a personal emergency. However, the source told Stabroek Business that the Canadian airline’s non-participation at the CAHA forum does not in any way impact on the interest that it has already expressed in providing a passenger service between Canada and Guyana and that a West Jet team is to visit Guyana shortly for talks on the proposal. West Jet was founded in 1996 and already provides service to destinations in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.
While the staging of the CAHA meeting here coincides with a growing regional recognition of the importance of qualitative enhancement of passenger and cargo services at airports as a critical cog in the wheel of the Caribbean’s development, its timing is also propitious for Guyana, coinciding as it does with a significant state investment in the modernizing of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Timehri. Guyana is gearing itself to attract more airlift as part of the country’s broader development programme, including the more aggressive marketing of its tourism product. The authorities here are also currently gearing for what is scheduled to be the commencement of an American Airlines passenger service between Miami and Georgetown in December.
Seen in its wider context this weekend’s CAHA meeting is expected to be underpinned by the aviation sector’s growing realization of the need to continually ‘raise its game’ in order to provide an adequate response to the increasingly insistent demand to significantly improve the quality of the regional aviation industry. From a broader regional perspective the forum is expected to focus on the critical nexus between Caribbean aviation and a tourism industry that is vital to the island economies. Deliberations are also expected to embrace the broader issue of the movement of passengers and cargo, not least, issues of airport efficiency and industry safety.
Airports serve as economic engines, creating both direct and indirect jobs and tax revenues, among other returns. Worldwide, airports provide 60 million jobs in a range of service areas from baggage handling to meteorology. A CAHA report also connects airports indirectly to millions of additional jobs in the tourism and service industries.
There is speculation that substantive airport issues apart, this weekend’s CAHA forum will also deal with industry concerns over what is believed to be a disproportionate focus of taxation on passengers and airlines. CAHA is reportedly advocating that given the importance of multi-destination tourism in the region, “governments should rationalize exit taxes, so they have the same dollar value in each country.”
Stabroek Business understands that on the agenda for this weekend’s CAHA meeting are issues relating to security, efforts to safeguard against terrorism and smuggling. Participants at the forum are expected to include airport equipment manufacturers, regional airlines including Aruba Air and Surinam Airways as well as local ground handlers.
CAHA was incorporated in January 2007 under the Barbados Companies Act, its principal functions being to represent the ground handling industry in the Caribbean as the regional arm of the International Aviation Handlers Association.