Fly Jamaica Airways, Air Guyana Join Hands on Cuba Flights
To the beat of a Cuban steelband and Caribbean dances at the El Laguito Protocol Hall in Havana, top executives from Fly Jamaica Airways and Air Guyana announced Friday the beginning –on a date to be disclosed soon- of regular nonstop flights between Guyana and Cuba.
Guyanese authorities and ranking members of Fly Jamaica Airways-Air Guyana thanked the Cuban Institute of Civil Aeronautics (IACC is the Spanish acronym) for granting all the permissions that allow the start of this commercial route between the two nations, following intense months of hard work and negotiations that eventually “made this dream come true.”
Mr. Lindbergh Smith, resident representative of Fly Jamaica-Air Guyana, told attendees and guests that this process got underway little more than three years ago, with a view in mind to strengthen Caribbean integration in terms of air transport, tourism and multidestination travel, as well as to foster trade and commerce all across the region.
“Today signals the beginning of a new era in which we believe tourism and trade will be all about,” said Mr. Smith during the launching ceremony.
For her part, Mrs. Mercedes Vazquez, director general of International Relations for the IACC, recalled that Cuba and Guyana started diplomatic relations back in 1972, and since then the ties between the two nations have beefed up every step of the way.
Captain Ronald Paul Reese, chairman and CEO of Fly Jamaica Airways, a company founded in Kingston, Jamaica, in 2011, said the ties between his company and Cuba harken back to 2013 when it commenced serving the Nassau-Havana route at Mr. Smith’s request.
In exclusive statements to Caribbean News Digital, Mr. Halim Majeed, ambassador of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana to Cuba, pointed at tourism as one of the sectors that will benefit the most from this new air bridge between Georgetown and Havana.
“We have a large diaspora in Canada and, as far as we understand, Guyanese-Canadians will come to Cuba and spend one week, then go to Guyana to spend another week, come back to Cuba and spend another week, and then go back to Canada,” said Mr. Majeed.
The Guyanese ambassador to Cuba told Caribbean News Digital that negotiations with Cuba’s Ministry of Tourism are underway to enhance multidestination travel once the new air route gets going, specifically with such neighboring islands as the Bahamas, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Antigua & Barbuda.
But according to Guyana’s top diplomat in Cuba, fostering bilateral trade and commerce is no doubt one of the driving forces that prompted the start of this new route.
“We have companies from Guyana that want to invest in Cuba, such as industries devoted to furniture and lumber, farming companies that deal with rice and fertilizers, others that manufacture and sell shingles and wooden artifacts. As far as rice is concerned, Guyana is the top rice producer in the CARICOM region,” Mr. Majeed went on to say.
As part of this major commercial deal between Cuba and Guyana, the latter will buy Cuban steel and steel products, marble and marble-made products, cement, as well as pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, cancer and diabetes vaccines and crops.
The ceremony for the launching of the new air service was attended by Ileana Nuñez, Cuban vice minister of Foreign Trade and Investment; Fernando González and Carlos Radames Perez, president and deputy president, respectively, of IACC; representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba and the Chamber of Commerce of the Republic of Cuba, as well as the diplomatic corps stationed on the island nation and news media organizations.
Currently, Fly Jamaica Airways serves Kingston, Georgetown, New York and Toronto. In addition to the Havana flights, the company will announce a few days from now the start of other frequencies to other destinations within the island nation, such as the cities of Camaguey and Santiago de Cuba.