GEORGETOWN, Guyana (GINA) — It was hailed as a new chapter in bilateral relations between Guyana and Suriname when the latter country’s national air carrier touched down at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) en route to Miami, USA, on Monday.
The airline had been absent from the commercial skies for six years and its return was marked by a customary welcome at Timehri where President Donald Ramotar and a team of officials from civil aviation, foreign affairs and the CARICOM Secretariat met Surinamese President Desi Bouterse and his delegation, who were the first passengers on the inaugural journey.
Suriname Airways is the national airline based in the country’s capital Paramaribo which will operate regional and long-haul flights with all the international standard requirements.
Given that negotiations with the Guyana government were among the main reasons for the airline’s return to the skies, it is looking to resume twice weekly flights from Paramaribo to Georgetown and flights to Toronto, Canada.
The Surinamese government hailed the contributions that Guyanese have made to their country’s visitor arrivals, as they constitute the largest group.
The scale of visitors has grown over the last two years, with approximately 33,000 in 2011 and 30,000 the previous year. It is hoped that with the national airline back in operation, the number will grow significantly.
Optimism is high that trade and tourism prospects will also increase and Ramotar spoke with confidence about the impact on the Diaspora in both countries that will be the beneficiaries of efficient travel.
“I think that we need more flights directly to our countries, for the development of tourism, because we do have a very good tourist product that we can develop and Suriname Airways coming here offers us also an easier way and probably a faster way of getting to Europe and attracting more European tourists to make Guyana a destination at this point in time,” Ramotar said.
It is also hoped that with the re-entry of Suriname Airways there will be an alternative to the regime that requires passengers to transit North America before travelling to countries in Europe and Africa.
Bouterse said accessibility to extra regional destinations is as important as travel between the two capitals and is consistent with his government’s plan to improve connectivity with the region through air, land and sea.
The Suriname national air carrier comes at a time when the Guyana government is moving ahead with plans to construct a modern airport of international standards. The new 14,000 square meter building will include multiple terminals, and an extended runway. Government has budgeted $4.5 billion (US$22 million) in the 2012 National Budget to cover the cost of the project.
The goal is to facilitate development in the air transport sector locally and, airlines coming from other countries.
Following the inauguration ceremony, Bouterse, who is also CARICOM chairman, met Ramotar for bilateral talks and also with staff of the CARICOM Secretariat.