More Flights to a Bigger Airport
Interairports presents their Plans for Juan Galvez International

December 11th, 2011
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The Grupo Terra and Interairports made their pitch at the Roatan Municipality on November 23. Interairports is planning a $40 million investment in the Roatan airport. It will take a few years, but the building should get an expansion, landing strip and upgrade, and even the "airport squatters" could be paid for their land titles. After the meeting: Samir Galindo, Freddy Nasser, Peter Fleming, Pierro DiBautista.

The Grupo Terra and Interairports made their pitch at the Roatan Municipality on November 23. Interairports is planning a $40 million investment in the Roatan airport. It will take a few years, but the building should get an expansion, landing strip and upgrade, and even the "airport squatters" could be paid for their land titles. After the meeting: Samir Galindo, Freddy Nasser, Peter Fleming, Pierro DiBautista.

A delegation from Interairports and its parent company Grupo Terra held a meeting with Roatan government officials and business owners to present their plan for improvements to Roatan International Airport. Interairports is seeking support for lobbying Honduran congress in extending their lease of the facility.

The original contract signed in 2000 is due to expire in 2020, but Interairports is trying to renew their contract with the Honduran government for management of the country’s four international airports until 2040. “The return on such a big investment needs at least 30 years,” said Ruben Sorto from Grupo Terra’s new projects.

If the contract is extended, in 2012-2017, Interairport projects to spend $19 million in investments to the Roatan airport. Amongst the planned improvements are: AC system, repairs to the runway and enlargement of the airport building.
The planned Interairports investment on Roatan pales in comparison to the $129 million to be spent building a brand new international airport in Palmerola – an airport expected to improve international access to Tegucigalpa, one of the toughest airport for landing in the world.

In Central America, only Nicaragua (800,000) has fewer international airline passengers than Honduras (1 million). On the other hand Honduras has four, and soon to be five, international airports.

Marketing destinations in Honduras hasn’t been easy. “Honduras does not have an international image. The government is not spending enough money promoting Honduras,” said Sorto. According to Sorto, Honduras spends half ($2.8 million) of what Nicaragua does ($5 million) to promote itself as a tourist destination. Costa Rica, by contrast, spends 10 times that ($26 million) on its promotion.

According to Interairports officials, the discussions of including Roatan airport departure taxes in the plane ticket price are underway with IATA. If all goes well, there would be no need to queue in line to pay the $37 departure tax.

One fee not being collected at the airport at all is the Bay Islands visitor fee: $1 per domestic passenger, and $6 per international passenger. “Roatan has lost Lps. 20 million from not charging the airport ZOLITUR fee,” said Mayor Galindo. The fee for all visitors coming to the Bay Islands has been collected by Bay Island’s ferries, but not by Interairports, and Mayor Galindo asked why. “We sent documents asking about this from the treasury department, but received no answer,” said Peter Fleming, head of Interairports commercial department.

According to some business owners, the price of airline tickets from the US to Roatan has kept many from giving the island a look. “We are not getting the conversion of week-long visitors from the cruise ship visitors,” said John Edwards, owner of Parrot Tree Plantation. “It’s mainly due to high air ticket prices to Roatan.”

As more airlines are looking at flying in to Roatan, ticket prices could be coming down. According to Interaiports several airlines are discussing new routes from the US and Europe to Roatan. American Airlines is looking at a flight from Dallas and Miami. Horizon, an Alaskan airline, is looking at flights either from San Diego or San Francisco. Discount Airline Easyjet is looking at connecting Roatan with Fort Lauderdale. Even Jet Blue has been discussing a possible Roatan route.

Roatan has been a small but reliable moneymaker for a struggling US airline industry. According to Sorto, airline passenger traffic in Honduras has grown by 5.5% in the last 10 years, exceeding the industry average.[/private]

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