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Jul 28, 2005

Contract signed for $40 million airport expansion

Story PictureYesterday’s top story involved the signing of an agreement to construct a hundred million dollar cruise terminal in Belize City. One day later, we lead with news that contracts have been signed for a forty million dollar expansion of the Philip Goldson International Airport in Ladyville. There are four components to the project. The first involves a two thousand, six hundred foot extension to the runway, the expansion of the apron to accommodate an additional wide body jet and the realignment of four thousand, four hundred feet of the airport access road. The other phases include an eight thousand square foot expansion of the arrival and departure lounges, the replacement of two of the airport’s three fire fighting vehicles and an upgrade of cargo facilities, particularly cold storage. This afternoon News 5′s Stewart Krohn spoke to C.E.O. of the Belize Airport Concession Company, Pablo Espat, who explained that while the details took some time to work out, the project is now ready to proceed and should be finished in twenty-four months.

Pablo Espat, C.E.O., Belize Airport Concession Co.
?I think it has taken a while to put together. As you can appreciate, we?ve been operating in very challenging times and I think it has taken us a little bit longer than we expected, but what is important is that we?ve stayed focus and we?re now at a stage where we can commence with the investment and we hope to have all the components of the investment completed within twenty-four months.?

Stewart Krohn
?Pablo, why is there a need to improve the airport? What does it do for the country or what does it do for your company?s bottom line??

Pablo Espat
?These lists of improvements come at the end of a very detailed study that was done by the Airport Authority and the Government of Belize several years ago. And so these improvements that we?re making are as a result of the studies that were done and our projection of what the infrastructure requirements are going to be, especially with the massive increases in tourism that we?ve been experiencing here over the last several years. So the improvements that we are about to commence with are going to allow us to facilitate the growth in the tourism industry, and I think very importantly, allow us to have an international airport with infrastructure and facilities that are competitive with any in the region.?

Stewart Krohn
?Take a thing like lengthening the runway, you go out to the airport, you see planes landing, you see planes taking off, people coming out, the place is busy; how does it help anyone to have a longer runway??

Pablo Espat
?The reason we?re spending so much money to lengthen the runway is so that we can have the capability to take flights that are coming from further away places. Right now, yes there is nothing wrong with the length of the runway based on the equipment that is flying into the airport, but if we want to target markets that are further away and we want to target markets that are different that what we are servicing right now, the length of the runway is critical in allowing the traffic to be able to come to Belize efficiently.?

Stewart Krohn
?Pablo, in the short run, what kind of good things or bad things are happening at the airport that we will notice in the next few months or year??

Pablo Espat
?The Belize Tourist Board is constantly looking for promoting Belize and looking for new sources of service for the country. We are hoping that they are going to be improved service by existing airlines. For example, we have been told unofficially that Delta is going to increase their service from a once a week service to a daily service in November of this year. We have also been talking to a number of airlines in terms of new services. We are now talking to Northwest Airlines and they have indicated that they are looking at Belize as a possible destination, perhaps if not at the end of this year, perhaps sometime in February. We are also talking to other airlines; for example Air Canada has indicated to us that they have Belize on their list and that if it is not possible for them to introduce service this year, perhaps sometime next year might be more feasible. So we are already talking to new prospective airlines that will offer new services to Belize.?

Stewart Krohn
?And for local travellers, will we feel any improvements??

Pablo Espat
?Well the expectation there is that as we build and grow the market, and we have greater competition, the hope is that the consumers will be able to have greater choice and hopefully service at a better price. I think that is the aim.?

Contractor for the runway, apron, and road works is a company called Airport Development Limited, a joint venture between Valley Ranch Enterprises of Blue Creek and Rodla Construction of Burrell Boom. Seventy percent of the cost of the project is being financed by FirstCaribbean Bank through their Cayman and Barbados offices, while the company’s investors are putting up the remainder. The loan will be serviced through the collection of departure fees from passengers, landing fees from airlines, rent from airport tenants, and car park fees. According to Espat, there is no government guarantee for the FirstCaribbean loan, only the personal guarantees of the investors.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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