A decrease in the volume of mining activity by local small and medium scale miners coupled with limited numbers of interior-bound visitors to Guyana contributed to a sharp decrease in the number of interior flights out of the Eugene F. Correia Airport in 2017 compared with the previous year, Stabroek Business has learnt.
Airport Chief Executive Officer and Project Coordinator Anthony Mekdeci told Stabroek Business in an interview earlier this week that between 2016 and last year the number of flights between Ogle and interior locations could have dropped by as many as 1,000, from 20,000 to 19,000.
“There is no one reason. The reasons are multiple. Primarily, there has been a decrease in domestic operations in the mining sector, not from international miners but from local small miners because of the price of gold which went down in 2016. Additionally, you have other areas which have seen reduced flights because of an increase in road transport moving things like fuel into the interior.
Airport Public Relations Advisor Christopher ‘Kit’ Nascimento, who, along with Mekdeci, spoke with Stabroek Business, weighed in on the issue of the interior flights pointing out that the low levels of tourist arrivals had contributed significantly to a falling off in interior flights. “A number of airport operators are now not servicing some of the interior areas. It is a major problem from a tourism point of view. With the Kaieteur Falls, for example, visitors cannot simply arrive in Guyana and plan to go the Kaieteur Falls the next day. There are no scheduled flights. The problem here is that there is an insufficient number of persons coming into the country to maintain scheduled flights into places like Annai, Karadanau and Kaieteur. So what the Tour Operator has to do is to call around to see if they can fill an aircraft for Kaieteur. The fact that we don’t have a sufficiently constant flow of flights means that the servicing of the tourist facilities is poor, Nascimento, a former President of the Tourism and Hospitality Association of Guyana (THAG) told Stabroek Business.
Statistics made available to this newspaper by the airport authorities indicated that during 2016 a total of 31,610 passengers departed the Eugene F. Correia Airport for international destinations while 32,118 passengers arrived here through the airport on 1,785 flights. During the same period the Airport received 93,660 passengers arriving there on domestic flights whilst processing 91,467 departing passengers.
In 2016 the airport received 2,347,279 pounds of domestic cargo from interior and coastal destinations and ‘exported’ 15,915,555 pounds of cargo to various domestic destinations.
During last year the airport handled 89,977 departing domestic passengers and 90,711 incoming domestic passengers. Passengers departing for overseas destinations over the same period totalled 36,748 whilst incoming passengers totalled 35,823. Cargo departing the airport for domestic destinations during 2017 totalled 14,515,629 pounds whilst arriving domestic cargo totalled 2,446,282 pounds. The volume of departing international cargo totalled 245,191 pounds whilst arriving cargo totalled 493,977 pounds.
Discussions between this newspaper and the two aviation sector officials also centred around the state of the country’s domestic airstrips. According to Nascimento, the local Aircraft Owners Association has been in receipt of reports from the local aviation service providers Trans Guyana regarding damage to their aircraft flying into Lethem. Nascimento said that while there have been indications from government that they are going to develop the Lethem facility, the fact that they are only now advertising for a feasibility study suggests that this is a long-term exercise. “The government is thinking long term. In the short term they are doing nothing,” Nascimento said adding that interior aviation infrastructure continues to suffer from a considerable measure of neglect.
“We have at Ogle an airstrip which is a Class 3C which allows a certain class of aircraft to land here. Outside of CJIA, Lethem and maybe Linden (if they repair it) there are no other 3C runways which can accommodate those aircraft. Based on information which we have received from our members the other airstrips have issues of safety, issues of maintenance,” Mekdeci said.