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A place in paradise
Nirvan Veerasamy, co-founder and managing director of YU Lounge, shares his vision for business aviation in Mauritius and St Kitts
When was the YU Lounge opened?
The YU Lounge was launched in 2008 with the opening of the first location in SSR International Airport in Mauritius. This innovative product has developed way beyond a proof of concept; in fact, it has been extremely well received by the customers, airlines and the travel trade, which has encouraged us to roll-out the concept worldwide with the second YU Lounge in operation in Robert L Bradshaw International Airport in St Kitts since May 2014.
What services do you offer to passengers and crew?
The YU Lounge is a state-of-the-art private terminal with fully integrated services; passengers arrive at the YU Lounge and do the things that they want to do while our team members do what they have to do. Airline check-in services, passport and customs control are done in-house while our passengers make use of the lounge facilities, gourmet snacks, duty-free purchases or simply chill out. Crew members have their dedicated rest and work areas to prepare for their next flight in the best possible conditions.
How do you facilitate a quick and hassle-free journey through the airport?
The YU Lounge has completely revolutionized the travel experience at an international airport where the typical passenger experience is to arrive, find a trolley (and sometimes dig in your pocket to find the right coin!), load the trolley, get into the airport terminal and look for the check-in desk, and then queue! Queue for check-in, for passport control, for security checks, etc. The YU Lounge has changed this by putting the passenger (and the crew) at the center of the whole process. All the customer has to do is to arrive and we take care of the rest. When the aircraft is ready, the concierge will handle and accompany the passenger right through to the door of the aircraft.
Above: The YU Lounge in Mauritius is available for both private jet and airline customers
Which passengers can use the facility?
One of the unique features of the YU Lounge in both Mauritius and St Kitts is that it is a private terminal located in an international airport and is able to cater for both private jet and airline customers. This is one of the key differences of the YU Lounge product. Airline passengers travelling in premium classes generally have access to an airline lounge at the airport. In developing our product, we have not only brought it to a level which would be to the expectation of a guest travelling on a business jet but made it accessible to any airline passenger wishing to avail themselves of such services.
How are you working with the St Kitts and Nevis Tourist Board to promote business aviation on the island?
Our experience with the Government of St Kitts and Nevis, the stakeholders and the Tourist Board has been simply extraordinary. They have fully understood the concept of the YU Lounge and have worked together with us to show what a small island can achieve in terms of infrastructure in order to present an entirely different proposition to visitors of the islands. We have had the pleasure of working with them to welcome a number of travel companies, airlines and corporates.
We have been present in major shows such as NBAA and EBACE to present the features of our state-of-the-art YU Lounge terminal and to clearly demonstrate the intent of the country to leapfrog the competition in terms of facilities for private flight guests, parking space and aircraft turn round, and more importantly, its capability to extend its unique island hospitality all the way to the footsteps of the aircraft.
Above: The YU Lounge in St Kitts opened in May 2014
What makes St Kitts an attractive destination for business aviation customers and what sets it apart from other Caribbean islands?
When I arrived on my first visit to St Kitts and Nevis in 2010, I was surprised by the resemblance to my own country (Mauritius) at the beginning of its economic boom, and it has embarked on a remarkable path with a number of initiatives that have brought in foreign direct investments. St Kitts and Nevis is poised to be the next St Barts [a popular destination for business aviation customers], with some exiting developments in real estate, leisure activities, hotels and a super yacht harbor combined with the advantage of having an airport that can take in large jets and has land available to develop more parking spaces, efficient government services, ease of access, no slot restrictions and as well a being very well respected when it comes to international norms in operations.
How is traffic growing at the airport?
Since the opening of the YU Lounge St Kitts in May 2014, the island has seen an increase of 21% of jet arrivals and 33% of private jet passengers.
According to the airport authorities’ statistics, private plane arrivals including corporate jets were 1,090 in 2013, 1,017 in 2014 and 1,240 in 2015. YU Lounge St Kitts is continuously developing and implementing new marketing strategies in order to maintain this growth and be competitive on the regional market.
Furthermore, the YU Lounge St Kitts partnered with Christophe Harbour marina and launched a new campaign in September called 'The New Gateway to the Caribbean'. This campaign was designed to target and attract super yacht and private jet owners to the islands. Almost all the owners of super yachts that sail in Caribbean waters also own private jets, therefore by attracting them to dock their yachts at the marina, they would subsequently fly in their jets.
Above: YU Lounge's new hangar in Mauritius
What plans do you have to further develop the YU Lounge and services that you provide?
Our product is designed so that it may evolve with our guests’ varying and constantly changing needs. For example, we will see more people using the YU Lounge to meet, discuss and close transactions, and execute paperwork in St Kitts, making use of its excellent and tax efficient jurisdiction. We will develop our product to attract more of such businesses.
In Mauritius, we have completed the second part of the product development, which is to construct a state-of-the-art aircraft hangar – and St Kitts will surely follow suit.
To see more images of YU Lounge's facilities, click here.
March 1, 2016