National flag carrier head Mike Adam says there has been a slight downturn in numbers on the airline’s Jamaica routes because of the new visa requirements for Jamaican visitors into the Cayman Islands.
The President and CEO of Cayman Airways said that the recent implementation of visa requirements for Jamaicans (effective 1 November) is having a minor impact on flights.
‘We have seen a slight erosion in numbers, nothing alarming,’ he said.
Currently the airline is monitoring the situation, but Mr. Adam said he believes that over time the situation will right itself.
Immediately following the announcement of the visa implementation, there were some large groups of people affected, but these have all been accommodated now, he said.
Most tickets purchased are those open for change within a year, he pointed out.
But looking toward the busy Christmas period, bookings on the Jamaica/Grand Cayman routes are very strong, and a number of extra flights have even been included to accommodate demand.
Projections for average loads for the Jamaica market this year are at 65 per cent and right now they are nearly at that, he said.
Miami is the national flag carrier’s most profitable route, with Jamaica next.
There are daily flights between Kingston and Grand Cayman, with an extra flight on Friday, and four flights a week between Montego Bay and Grand Cayman.
A new visa requirement (which came into effect 1 December) for Caymanians going to Jamaica has been implemented by the Jamaican Government.
By 30 November the Jamaican Consulate had received 23 applications for visas from Caymanians.
A spokesperson for the Consulate said that all applications were being processed within 24 hours and the new system was running smoothly.
‘We are endeavouring to make sure that all applications are processed in time for people to travel,’ she said.
Mindy Scott-Hennings, general manager of Cayman Travel Services, said they had seen some cancellations from travellers to and from Jamaica but she felt it was too soon to see the long-term effects of the visas.
But she did raise concern over the cost of the visas for Jamaicans, where wages are much lower than in Cayman.
And she said she was worried about children travelling from Jamaica to join their families in Cayman next summer.
‘It seems unnecessary and costly for children to have visas to come here,’ she said.
Ellen Schwartz of Travel Pros said they have seen quite a few outbound cancellations. She says that some people who had previously been issued tickets are afraid to go back to Jamaica in case they won’t get back into Grand Cayman although they have a work permit renewal pending.
However, Gail Duquesnay of Adventure Travel said they are not seeing cancellations on flights. For now they are not seeing cancellations for Christmas on the Jamaica route either.
Director of Communications for Air Jamaica Sandrea Falconer recently said it was a little early to tell whether the new visa policy would have an impact on flights on its Cayman-Jamaica routes. The airline has seen some reduction in passengers, but will need to analyse passenger data to assess the impact.
Applications for a visa to enter Jamaica must be made in person at the Jamaican Consulate, Dot Com Centre, Second Floor, 342A Dorcy Drive, Industrial Park, George Town. Office hours are 8.30am to 2.30pm Monday to Friday.