The BVI Airports Authority (BVIAA) is presently working on a $158 million Capital Improvement Programme (CIP) that will completely transform the Terrance B Lettsome International Airport into a modern facility by 2025.
Delivering his address in the House of Assembly on Thursday, Premier Andrew Fahie said the programme will include improvements to the runway, taxiway, aircraft parking, terminal, car park and roadway. He said the designs for the project is expected to commence by October 2021.
He said the project would “permit tourists and investors to fly non-stop to the BVI not just from San Juan, but from anywhere in North America or western Europe such as New York, Toronto and London, just to name a few cities”.
“This programme must be our top priority for the territory and your government aims to ensure this,” Fahie stated.
Investment in airport projected to quickly payoff
Premier Fahie also said the CIP will require financial support from the central government but added that a preliminary Economic Impact Study showed that government’s investment into the project will quickly pay off.
He said: “The estimated number of jobs created by the airport directly and indirectly across the Virgin Islands is expected to multiply fivefold, from approximately 2,700 in 2019 to over 14,000 jobs in 2030. Correspondingly, as a result of the new airport improvements, the BVI tax revenues driven by the airport’s existence is forecast to rise from an estimated $12.6 million in 2019 to $61.7 million by 2030.”
“Looking to the future because of these airports and increased traffic, the British Virgin Islands Airports Authority is forecast to be operating at a surplus by 2028, no longer having to be subsidised by the central government as it has been over the many years. But first we must make the investment in the Capital Improvement Programme,” he added.
Additional $5 million injection needed annually
Fahie who is also the Minister of Finance further said the government will now have to pump millions of dollars of additional funds into BVIAA’s normal budget due to losses suffered by the organisation as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s important to point out that even without the new airport improvements, the loss of passenger and air cargo traffic due to the COVID-19 pandemic will require your government to infuse about $5 million a year in the airport Authority’s operating budget beginning next year,” he said.
“This does not include further government assistance for capital expenditures and technology and service innovations that must be made even as we await the opening of the new airport in 2026. The above $5 million annual infusion to the airport’s operating budget also does not include our commitment to Virgin Gorda to pave the runway there,” Fahie further stated.
More initiatives to come
Premier Fahie also revealed other plans the BVIAA has to further boost future revenues at the airport. He said the initiatives have so far included the issuance of two Request for Proposals (RFPs).
“One for the development of a new world-class fixed based operation to handle the many private and business jets that fly into Terrence B Lettsome and another for the development and operation of a commercial aircraft fueling operation for that airport,” the Premier said.
The two projects are anticipated to be operational by the end of 2021.
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