Ground has been broken for the $1.2m construction of the Turks and Caicos Islands Airports Authority's Airside Walkway Canopy at the Providenciales International Airport.
The event took place at the airport on Monday, May 23, and construction is to be carried out by North Caicos Native Crosley Bain of Crowne Construction, who promised that not only would the canopy be delivered within the five-month stipulated time but will also done within budget.
The Washington Misick administration stated that the canopy construction was a temporary solution to the chronic weekend congestions due to the sharp uptick of visitors to the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Kyle Smith, Director for the Turks and Caicos Islands Airports Authority (TCIAA) told the gathering that the ground-breaking – the second in a few weeks for the TCIAA – marked a significant step in alleviating some of the stresses faced at the airport.
Smith advised Crowne Construction that the ball was in their court to ensure that they are seamless in their delivery, stating also that the TCIAA Board would be ready not only to provide support, but also to hold the contractors accountable.
“The ball is in your court to ensure that you deliver, follow and adhere to the contractual agreements, and that you are timely and the level of workmanship that you produce is quality,” Smith said.
Selvyn Hawkins, Chairman of the TCIAA Board, told the gathering that it was important to promulgate events such as the canopy construction for more reasons than one.
“Ceremonies like these, regardless of what is being constructed are absolutely important,” he said. “They are important, first and foremost because they remind us of the kind of work that we do. They remind us of the value of the work that we do.”
He added: “They also force us to remain diligent with our work, and committed to delivery to people, particularly since we are a statutory body…we are acting on behalf of the public, ensuring that we deliver…that we deliver with integrity, that we deliver on time with projects that are to serve the public.”
He stated also that such ceremonies were important because it is an indication that as a people progress was being made.
Minister of Immigration and Border Services Hon. Arlington Musgrove, echoed importance of the canopy construction, stating that government was somewhat worried that the long queues was a security concern.
“When we begin to see our visitors and our residents going through this canopy, they we can say that we are moving in a right direction,” he said, also reassuring the public that the commitment to overhaul the Providenciales International Airport was coming down the pike.
“So, bear with us,” he pleaded.
Minister of Education and Member of Parliament for the area Hon. Rachel Taylor, stated that as the gateway into the TCI, the Providenciales International Airport remains one of the most valuable assets of the country, and was delighted that efforts to ensure that its value not only remains intact, but was being improved on.
“This construction of this airside canopy is about more than delivering on critical infrastructure needed to address the needs and concerns of our visiting guests and industry partners,” she said.
Taylor added: “It is reflective of our culture of hospitality; ensuring that we do whatever is necessary to ensure that each person who graces our shores feels a genuine welcome. A genuine welcome includes the provision of shelter from the rain and sun when needed.
“Once completed, I am sure that this Airside Canopy will prove itself to be a valuable and important piece of infrastructure, providing much needed shelter for passengers transiting between their aircrafts and the passenger terminal, from the natural and sometimes harsh elements of Provo’s outdoors.”
Minister of Tourism Hon. Josephine Connolly pointed out that it is paramount that tourists are comfortable to the time of arrival to departure. To that effect, Minister Connolly said she was elated that the Airside Walkway Canopy’s construction has given the green light.
“This is a good day for the Turks and Caicos and indeed a good day for the industry, and for those who arrive and depart as visitors to our shores,” she said, noting that she lobbied her administration to come up with a solution to the crowded affair on weekends especially.
“…And here we are today, and I am happy that the plans we have for a solution have now come to fruition. This ground-breaking day signifies that works are well on its way,” she said.
She said while canopy will not serve as a silver bullet to the current bursting-at-the-seams problem, it is geared to ensure that passengers are comfortable and that it provides some level of security.
For her part, Deputy Governor Her Excellency Anya Williams stated that the Turks and Caicos Islands has seen exponential growth in tourism over the past few years, and the crowded affair at the Providenciales International Airport was a good problem to have.
She said the airport, on a given Saturday, hosts at least 20 international flights.
“The Turks and Caicos phenomenal growth in our tourism industry, which is the mainstay of our economy. We, each year, welcome hundreds of thousands of passengers here into this airport, which is the gateway into these islands.
“And that is a great thing for these Islands, but for us it creates a problem…it creates a problem because our infrastructure has outgrown the number of passengers that we have coming here,” she said, revealing that on numerous Saturdays she was called to urgently address the crowded situation at the terminal.
She stated that on a weekend, all the landing spaces are taken up, while planes circle in the air to gobble up the next available slot. At the same time, she said persons were in immigration waiting to be processed, others are on parked planes waiting to disembark, while departing passengers waited inside for word as to when they would be allowed to board their flight.
“I consider that to be a blessing because of the fact that because these persons have chosen Turks and Caicos to come to, but for us at the same time we know that we owe our visitors a greater travel experience. This is just the start of the improvements that we hope to be making here at the Providenciales Airport,” she said.
Premier Hon. Washington Misick stated that the planned construction of the Providenciales International Airport would be the biggest project that the country would see in the next 25 years.
“And so, it is critical that we are agile in our delivery. We could plan and wait until we build a new terminal (before addressing the overcrowding problem), but that would degrade the experience of visitors and also our returning residents. And so, what we are doing here is an agile response to the need as a result of the growth that is taking place here, and so we have a lot to thank God for,” the Premier said.