Chief Executive of Virgin Atlantic Airways Steve Ridgway says Saint Lucia had rebounded well in the aftermath of Hurricane Tomas and his company was pleased to return to the market this past Sunday, November 14 with a full load of excited passengers.
Ridgway arrived here on board Virgin Atlantic’s second flight into Saint Lucia since the October 30 storm and met with Prime Minister Stephenson King and key tourism industry stakeholders as he evaluated first hand the resilience of Saint Lucia’s tourism infrastructure and its people.
“We came in with a full load Sunday and it is clear that travel is getting back to what it was prior to the storm,” he told journalists at a press reception held at The Landings St. Lucia which was also attended by members of the Saint Lucia Tourist Board, the Saint Lucia Hotel and Tourism Association (SLHTA) and the Rotary Club.
“I spoke with lots of passengers and they were all eagerly looking forward to their holiday, and were not daunted at all by what they have been hearing or reading,” he pointed out.
Ridgway said that he was pleased with efforts to restore the island’s road network and water production and gleaned from his talks with Prime Minister King there was a very clear intent on the part of government to convey that the country is open for business and the tourism product had not been adversely impacted by the storm. “It (is) important to normalize the flow of passengers to (Saint Lucia) which remains an important destination for us,” he added.
Virgin Atlantic Airways, which has been serving Saint Lucia for the past 12 years, quickly put together a team of both British and Caribbean staff to assist passengers on the island who had been affected by the hurricane, as well as communities that were in need of relief.
Emergency supplies, including 115 aqua boxes and 80 shelter boxes, were transported to assist the Rotary Club of Saint Lucia. More than 3,000 litres of bottled water were also flown in and distributed by Virgin’s ground staff.
Senator Allen Chastanet, Saint Lucia’s Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation, thanked Virgin Atlantic for both its generosity and commitment to the destination. “Our British and European business is showing tremendous growth potential,” he said, adding that with new intra-regional air partners, Saint Lucia was positioning Hewanorra International Airport as a premier hub for connections to the Eastern Caribbean.
Virgin Atlantic Airways currently operates three weekly flights between Saint Lucia’s Hewanorra International Airport and London’s Gatwick Airport.