Premier Hon. Washington Misick has announced a multi-million dollar short-term fix at the Providenciales International Airport, which should make protracted wait from disembarking of the planes to the immigration checkpoints more bearable.
The premier, in a news conference on Wednesday, declared that his government would be spending about $4million to erect canopies on the tarmac leading to the terminal building, but promised that there was a longer solution coming.
Describing the long lines in the fervent heat that often snakes from the steps of the planes on the tarmac to the immigration checkpoints inside the terminal building as a good problem to have, Premier Misick said spending is geared to ease the wait burden.
“We are set to invest anywhere between $3m and $4m-plus for short term fix, which we hope to take root in the next four months, to make sure that never again we will have a situation where our guests are lined up outside in the sun,” the premier remarked.
Such protracted waiting period at the Providenciales International occurs mostly on Saturdays and Sundays. The premier pointed out that the inflowing of visitors at the airport is a telltale sign that the Turks and Caicos Islands is sexy in the eyes of the international traveler.
“We have a very good problem. That problem was the display at the airport at the weekend. That problem is that, this destination is so hot (that) so many people want to be here, that the capacity at our airport facility at the moment is just not able to accommodate everyone,” he argued.
“Getting it right and getting it easy for tourists to come into to this country is so critical to the economic development of these islands at the moment. So, I just want to say that we have two tracks that we are running on to make sure that we do everything we can to facilitate the quality of the experience of our visitors to these islands.
“We intend to, and we are in the process of procuring a canopy on the airside of the runway, to make sure that the guests, in disembarking of the planes, are in a place where they can not only keep dry if it rains, but keep out of the sun, so that we can exercise the protocol that is required, so that we can keep social distancing, and in terms of the processing once they enter the airport terminal,” the premier noted.
He pointed that the Turks and Caicos Islands is being marketed as a five-star destination, and his government intends to ensure that the service reflects the sales pitch.
“We want to be able to put what is necessary (in place) to make the necessary investment, to make sure that Turks and Caicos is indeed a five star destination that we claim it to be. And so, on the short term basis that is what we will be doing with haste. The long term, we are in an advance stage of looking at exactly what the redevelopment of the Providenciales International Airport is going to look like,” Misick said.
He said the long term overhaul of the airport will be designed to make it last over generations.
“The current terminal has a significant number of faults that we intend to correct. But ultimately we are looking at how we can develop an entire facility to make sure that it can last perhaps for the next 50 years,” Misick said.
The problem at the airport was compounded last Saturday, with no-shows of six immigrations officers, resulting in some of the checkpoint booths being left unmanned, according to sources.
But Premier Misick said since it was the Deputy Governor’s Office that is in charge of the public sector, he could not comment on what recommended measures should be taken against those officers, if any, neither could he offer any updates on the situation.