By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
AIRPORT development "has not kept up" with the pace of tourism growth, a Cabinet minister lamented yesterday, suggesting that passenger facility charges will be necessary to finance long overdue maintenance.
Dionisio D'Aguilar, minister of tourism and aviation, told the Caribbean Aviation Meetup 2018 conference that public-private partnerships (PPPs) to build and operate airports that have the capacity to be self-sustaining were critical.
Of the 28 Family Island airports, 16 cater to international traffic and must meet International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) safety and security requirements for air travel - something he described as an extremely costly undertaking.
Mr D'Aguilar said a 2014 survey by Stantec, a consultancy, found that an $180m investment was needed to address safety gaps and terminal redevelopment - with that number having grown significantly since.
"Airport development has not kept pace with tourism growth. North Eleuthera and George Town are examples of this. We believe public private partnerships can be fostered," he added.
"The multi-million question is how do we reconcile the massive capital outlay to build not one, but multiple airports, against the need to collect reasonable fees to service the debt and maintain these airports."
"Some level of passenger facility charge or tourism taxation is required," said Mr D'Aguilar. "At all steps our goal is to implement a taxation level that is reasonable and doesn't in any way impede tourism growth."
Tourism and aviation officials from 28 countries and territories are in The Bahamas for the third annual Caribbean Aviation Meet-up, which is being held at the Atlantis resort.
The conclave, which is being hosted by the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation, closes tomorrow. Its key objective is to find new ways to increase airlift into the region.