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When building contractors extended the runway at the tiny Beef Island Airport in the BVI eight years ago, construction began with the creation of a lagoon enclosing the part of the sea which would be infilled to create the extension.
Once the lagoon had been completed it was dredged out to make sure that when it was filled it would be on top of solid rock. The dredgers pulled out over 12 recognisable plane wrecks in various stages of rot and decay, and the parts of many more. Most of those had run accidentally off the old short runway and into the sea. Although there had never been a fatality...just some red faces and many, many Happy Hour stories.
I remember when Fly BVI a small locally owned airline, lost its last plane in the sea at the end of the runway one morning when leaving for Antigua, heavily loaded with tourists and passengers hoping to catch the BA flight to Heathrow that afternoon. That marked the ignominious end of another small local airline, when the thirty plus passengers grumpily waded ashore, somewhat shaken and full of sound and fury. If I recall correctly, the then pilot is now an elected Minister of the Legislative Council.
But seeing all those small planes then, some private, some part of a fleet of one of the many local, inimitable airlines that carried travellers, brought back memories of a different time when these islands were not so held to ransom by the large international airlines as we are today.
Travelling through San Juan airport last week was a shock. Where were all the long immigration queues? The usual difficulties of seeing anything at all on the baggage belts in the baggage Hall? I am a small person, and the Almighty has arranged it that there are always serried ranks of immovably giant people between me and the belt on which my small but heavy suitcase is shooting past. And Puerto Rico is normally one of the most difficult for me to get through to the belts. Most perplexingly, why were all the main doors locked and only a few emergency doors open for travellers exiting the airport?
The Luis Muñoz Marín International airport is the Caribbean hub for American Airlines operations, and also considered the busiest in the Caribbean. I cannot remember ever seeing it quite so eerily empty. Over 15 million tourists visited the Caribbean islands last year and a large percentage of those went through Puerto Rico. Where was everybody? And then I remembered....in September of this year, American Airlines cut its daily flights into Puerto Rico from 93 to 51! ...and the result last week was frightening.
September at the height of hurricane season and the hottest month in the islands always makes for a quiet month, but for Puerto Rico to lose nearly half of its flights from its biggest carrier is a disaster. American Airlines estimate that by this time next year this current level will probably be 15 to 18 percent down further and with about 15 to 20 percent higher average fares.
But is it such a disaster?
Perhaps not; perhaps we shall start to see the rise of the small island carrier again, a proliferation of private planes used by hotels and corporations bring their own people and guests in, and the rise of existing and new regional carriers. LIAT the local intra-island carrier has already stepped in and is providing flights to cover the gaps that American Eagle has left our of Puerto Rico.
Flying is going to become interesting, an opportunity for entrepreneurial pilots up and down the islands to start providing small local airlines again. Like we used to have twenty years ago before the big carriers put them all out of business or swallowed them up.
Uniquely Caribbean airlines with a fleet of two or three planes; those little planes where you never know who your travelling companion will be, a coffin (with or without corpse), a crate of chickens or a hand of plantain; or whether the take-off strategy this morning is to rise into the air or just tip off the end of the runway onto the beach a few feet below!
In which case we can all walk ashore to the local bar for a Painkiller and wait for the next flight....whenever that may be! Or we could sail. Now that's a thought for next time.
This month we have added a new section to our magazine in response to the many questions and interest we get from readers about the current climate of financial upheaval.
The new "Money" section will not be of interest to everyone, but features excellent regular columns from International Consultants on how to find a good Caribbean Property Mortgage, and on a little known but legal and safe method of securing assets against the depredations of the taxman through Economic Citizenship.And lastly a column for developers and projects looking for information and advice on Funding and Financing.
Hot off the Press seems to be all about hurricanes but then its that time of year. Sustainable Living is also about hurricanes sadly with an appeal for help for Haiti but also an interesting piece about wind power being developed in Panama. Environmentalists now believe that the world should concentrate on adapting to climate change and not on preventing it. Tourism Treats is full of interesting little goings-on on the tourism front and Did You Know introduces a new series on the Creole language.
This October edition has six Special Features, including Journey to Belize one family’s adventurous journey across the world from South Africa for Belize. The journey was quite a daunting task, especially for a single mother with a very social young daughter of 16. Read their account of settling in to an unspoilt, undiscovered country in Central America, where their lives were forever changed by the natural beauty of the Caribbean.
Country Focus this month takes us to the Dominican Republic with three interesting articles, Real Estate Haven and then on to Business is Booming to discover the the country’s economic sector is booming at an average expansion rate of 7.7% per year which has helped to secure the country’s position as having the largest developing economy in the Caribbean and Central America. The final article Dazzling Dominican Republic shows that no other island offers the plethora of world class activities, upscale resorts and casinos, high end retail, old world charm, new world convenience, dedicated ecotourism - and all at very reasonable prices.
Caribbean Investor and Owner Notes features a great deal on a very large and successful Mexican Development for those looking for a really secure investment in a full service Resort, Marina, Golf Course and Spa.
In the Rich Report Howard notes that the questions he is most frequently asked about offshore opportunities – particularly in Latin America – are: How do you know which countries offer the soundest investments and how do you know some Marxist dictator is not going to swoop in, swipe up property, and destroy the entire economy while he’s at it? Those are entirely reasonable questions and the answer is that most countries in Latin America have been constitutional democracies for decades. And many have stringent private property protections.
Great deals straight from the developers - can be found in Off Plan Pre-Development Offers, followed by the old favourite our editor’s Pick of the Month section. Enjoy your October edition of Caribbean Property and Lifestyles Magazine and make a note to read November's which will include Grenada as our Country Focus, and an article on moving your assets offshore safely!
A secure gated community that offers luxurious beachfront condominiums, Infiniti Blu stylishly incorporates living space with lush tropical gardens and a charming semi-private beach.
The first class ocean front development of 20,000 square meters (approximately 5 acres) combines spectacular views with a hi tech sophisticated infrastructure contained within European standard architectural detail.
The spacious Caribbean condos range from 159m2 (1711ft2) to 355m2 (3821ft2). Each one is carefully positioned so there is no need to cross a street while you walk through the tropical gardens to either of the two pools or to the beach, and is just a short five minute walk to town.
Recently we have written a lot in our magazine about US baby boomers and British retirees looking for a place in the sun to warm their golden years, when the financial and ego driven imperative of a career eases off. A report that came out this week projects that by 2060 42.1% of the UK`s population will be above retirement age - that proportion is currently 24.3%, and that the number of Britons aged 80 or above is expected to reach 9% in 2060, compared with the current figure of 4.5%. ---> Read More
With a murder rate of three times that of New York, a direct result of the parlous state of the 550 strong police force, a new Commissioner was appointed earlier this year to Antigua. His name is Gary Nelson and he is a former Canadian Mountie. British police training resources are focused elsewhere in the Caribbean and so the Antiguans invited Canada to help modernise its internal security. But on arrival Mr Nelson found his police headquarters in the capital, St Johns, had been without running water for 18 months and there were no fax machines, email or two-way radios. ---> Read More
Gramoxone which is paraquat, is top of the table of the most dangerous of these herbicides and is totally banned in Europe and North America because it is a known carcinogenic. So it was a shock when a friends dog became very ill last week and the vet told us that it was Gramazone poisoning. He gave the dog a 20% chance of survival. Gramazone, he told us, attacks the organs and they fail one by one. Often it can take three days but the end is inevitable. We could not understand why the dog would have eaten something covered in a nasty pesticide. ---> Read More
A reggae band from any island doing a tour elsewhere in the Caribbean, will have to apply for an entertainment and work permit for each country and each player. Any sort of cultural or community exchange is fraught with unecessary bureaucracy and will often fail to happen. Cellphones don`t work from one Caribbean country cell network to the next, notwithstanding the fact that if you don`t have a universal charger you are totally up the creek. In the Eastern Caribbean there is no common policy on whaling or commercial fishing between the tiny island nations, whilst Costa Rica at the opposite end has banned all whaling in its waters. But then along comes an effort like this which, if nothing else, merges us in a common cause, albeit an economic one. ---> Read More
They tell me that if I turn off my air conditioning in my car not only do I save $200 a year but also the planet. I am all for saving the planet. Under the circumstances, it seems like an excellent idea! The world and his dog, (as my Mother used to say) is well aware that we are using up our finite fossil fuels at an alarming speed and that it behoves each of us, in our own way, to slow down consumption. A few years ago we took a five day cruise and I still feel guilty. It was only afterwards I learned that I had used up a ton of fuel, as had every other person on that cruiseship during those five days. I enjoyed the cruise but not at that price. ---> Read More
Back up in the air 40 minutes later, after sitting sweltering in a hot plane while an engineer tinkered and the pilot refuelled with a cold fruit juice and maybe a tuna sandwich. We were on our way to St. Vincent. We finished our tuna sandwiches as Dominica slid away beneath us. Later that day we found out that 3 other LIAT planes had turned back at the same time as us...mmm. And yesterday, and the day before that. Landing in St. Lucia we were told as is usual, to remain on the plane if we were continuing on to the next destination. What a nice group of travellers going on to St. Vincent all seven of us. Nobody seemed to be going on to Trinidad which was the final destination of this flight. ---> Read More
Certainly, life on a small third world island makes us much more sensitive to economic and social changes worldwide than perhaps we would like it to be. The Elizabethan poet John Donne wrote at a time when the English, Portuguese and Spanish were bitterly scrapping over portions of the Americas and the Caribbean, `No man is an island, entire of itself". A visionary line that evokes the interconnectedness of life on our small planet, and especially the tiny Caribbean island nations that cannot be separated from the planetary pulse. ---> Read More
We have been looking for some time in the area, because having rented for 18 months, this is where we would like to build a home in Dominica. And so we have started looking in earnest for somewhere to plant our family tree in the last couple of months. Its a rugged, mountainous area with smallholdings interspersed with rainforest and a multiplicity of streams, ravines, gorges and rivers. Every possible find is a big adventure, a long hike with cutlass in hand to clear the undergrowth only to find that no-one really knows where the boundaries are, and the surveyors are booked up for another three months so we may not live long enough to find out. Or that it actually isnt ten acres, its only two because the owners are two brothers, and one of them doesnt want to sell. ---> Read More