26 August 2008

Government considering subsidies to private sector businesses

The provincial government is considering subsidizing air travel for people owning property in western Newfoundland but living outside Canada.

The idea of discount air travel using public money has been around for some time but has picked up momentum as Humber Valley Resort restructures and withdraws from tourism activity.  Currently, the resort offers its property owners a subsidized direct flight between the United Kingdom and Deer Lake. The resort won't be continuing the subsidized air travel for its property owners.

International commercial air travel is currently available to the island's west coast through connections in Toronto, St. John's, Halifax and Montreal.

A summer service by Air Canada between London (Gatwick) and St. John's was canceled after Astraeus Airlines - which then operated the private charter flights to the resort - introduced a stop in St. John's to challenge what was already a weak intercontinental market out of St. John's. Astraeus canceled its St. John's to Gatwick flight as well citing low business volume.

A west coast lobby group - Humber Direct-Air  - is looking at ways of providing the subsidy currently covered by Humber Valley Resort using other funds, apparently including a source that isn't the public till.

The lobby group includes west coast businesses, as well as the Deer lake airport authority head and a representative of Humber Valley Resort.