The government will invest $5 million into the Leonard M. Thompson International Airport in Marsh Harbour, Abaco, to get it up and running for international traffic, Algernon Cargill, the government-appointed coordinator of hurricane relief efforts of Abaco, said yesterday.
“We are going to invest probably a minimum of $5 million to get that airport back up and running,” Cargill said.
“Prior to Dorian, we had expected to spend $5 million on that airport to modernize some things in the airport and improve the product we offer there. So, our strategy is still to spend the $5 million…”
The airport was partially damaged during the passage of Hurricane Dorian.
Cargill, who is also the director of aviation, said this is a small price to pay.
“This is why the government is focused on not only reopening the airport, but bring commerce back to Abaco,” he said.
He said repairs to the airport will include 30,000 feet of perimeter fencing, repairs to generators, a mold inspection, roof repairs and an upgrade to the air conditioning system.
“What we found during Dorian was the three buildings in Abaco – the airport, the hospital and the government complex – these were the buildings that were largely inhabited by residents when their homes were destroyed,” he said at a press conference for the Exuma Business Outlook.
“Naturally when they were there for an extended period, there was some damage to the assets and because of the impact of probably 5,000 people or so converging in these three buildings we have to correct this issue.”
Cargill noted that this figure may grow, but the goal is to ensure that the spillover benefits of restoring tourism extends to the wider Abaco community.
He added that Abaco’s airport is the country’s second busiest airport after Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA).
“That airport is extremely critical to the tourism product,” he said.
“The prime minister has directed the Department of Aviation, through the Airport Authority, to ensure that the airport is opened by the end of next week, and while there are currently domestic flights into Abaco, his directive extends to including international flights into Marsh Harbour.”
Cargill added that the objective is to ensure that the Marsh Harbour airport is reopened to international traffic as early as next Friday, which he insisted will have a significant impact on the island’s tourism product.
Cargill also revealed that the government intends to transform Treasure Cay International Airport into a private airport.
“The runway at Treasure Cay can take the larger jets that can’t fly into Marsh Harbour,” he said.
“So, we certainly recognize the importance of that Treasure Cay airport. So, I’m working on identifying a strategic partner for Treasure Cay to partner with the government to rebuild that airport.”
Cargill explained that while Marsh Harbour was battered during Hurricane Dorian, there are still parts of Abaco that are open for business.
He added that there are other projects on the agenda outside of the airport, as the government is keen on restoring commerce to the island.
“We’re looking at the financial services, having food for sale,” he said.
“We [were] very successful in bringing gasoline back. The food stores are planning to reopen. I have a few plans on my desk now to bring mobile banking back to Abaco.
“So, we have a very [extensive] plan to not only rebuild or reopen at Abaco’s airport, but to ensure that we can recover as quickly as possible the commercial sector of Abaco. Hopefully, a victory for us next year would be the Business Outlook returning to Marsh Harbour.”
The 16th annual Abaco Business Outlook was slated to take place early last month, but the magnitude of Hurricane Dorian’s devastation put a wrench in those plans.