French company to give Havana airport a full overhaul

Posted: 09-Aug-16 12:19

Last Wednesday official Cuban sources announced that French state-controlled firm, Aeroports de Paris, would be given the green light to carry out renovation and improvement works on Havana's Jose Marti International Airport, at the hands of French company Bouygues. The announcement came after it was revealed that Cuba was gearing up to receive a record-breaking number of tourists this year, putting a major strain on the island's hotels and airport infrastructure, which would struggle to cope with the larger influx of commercial flights arriving from the U.S. starting 31st August.

French company to give Havana airport a full overhaul

With over 2 million tourists having already visited Cuba this year, the island is gearing up for yet another record-breaking tourism figures by the end of 2016. Expecting to close the year with an estimated 3.8 million tourists, Cuba is in desperate need of improvement and expansion works to its tourism infrastructure, which is struggling to cope with the rapidly increasing number of visitors.

From hotels in Havana and Varadero booked to full capacity, to car rentals booked out for months in advance, Cuba is running out of facilities to cater to the growing number of foreign holidaymakers arriving by the bucket-load. Even its largest airport, the Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, was facing difficulties dealing with the larger influx, which resulted in delays for travellers and increasingly growing queues at immigration and baggage reclaim.

To its rescue, the French government-run company in charge of running Charles de Gaulle, Orly and other French airports, in conjunction with French firm Bouygues; will both be jointly working to renovate Havana’s airport. The Cuban government has given full approval and last Wednesday announced it had given consent to the works. According to Cibercuba the renovation project would also include the nearby San Antonio de los Banos aerodrome. The announcement came via the island’s national TV news, with a statement from the Ministry of Transport that said:

“(…) immediate actions will be undertaken in order to improve service quality, as well as investments in the medium to long-term, in proportion to the projected growth in passenger numbers."

The unstoppable growing number of visitors arriving to the island in recent months, which is expected to increase even more in less than a month’s time as U.S. commercial routes start calling at various airports nationwide, (though not Havana yet, as the DOT is still to announce which U.S. airlines will be approved for Havana flights) has been given as the motive that pushed the government to consider these “new alternatives” in terms of accepting foreign intervention and financing in order to modernise and expand the capital’s airport, which receives over 50 per cent of international travellers.

The note from the Ministry of Transported concluded by saying:

“Transport and infrastructure are strategic and prioritised elements in Cuba’s economy and society; thus alliances like the aforementioned, will continue to be promoted and extended to other airports in the country.”

Up until now Cuba had only conceded operational licences to foreign companies in the hotel industry. Never before had the Cuban government given concession to foreign firms in terms of managing other of areas of the island’s economy.

The two French companies who will be in charge of renovating the Havana airport are said to be the winners among a bunch of contestants, among which Spanish airport managing company, AENA, was said to have also been vying for the spot.

In the meantime, the works for the expansion of the international terminal of Havana’s airport, will be carried out by Brazilian construction company, Odebrecht, the same company that overhauled the Mariel port, as announced by Cubacontemporanea.

Still pending licence to operate other airports in the island are the Varadero, Santa Clara, Cayo Coco, Holguin and Santiago de Cuba airports. Announcements for the foreign operation of these could soon come, so watch this spot. For now, the renovation of the Jose Marti airport in Havana will be the island’s most important immediate project in years, and certainly the largest French-Cuban deal since President Hollande visited the island in May last year.


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