With two new 70-seater jets on the horizon for Cayman Airways this coming winter season, the Cayman Islands Tourism Association is fully pledging its support to this and other government initiatives to boost tourism.
Along with the acquisition of two Embraer 70-seater jets, CITA also supports the potential addition of new routes.
‘As the rest of the region is cutting flight schedules and vacationers are looking elsewhere to visit, the Cayman Islands Government is taking bold steps to gain a competitive edge over other destinations, ultimately resulting in new business that will boost the Cayman Islands tourism industry in these harsh economic times,’ said a statement from CITA.
Minister for Tourism Charles Clifford recently confirmed to Cayman Free Press that Cayman Airways is to secure two 70-seater jets, which it is to lease and are hoping to have in service by December.
‘It is important that we are able to increase service to assist with airlift this winter, as our major source market (the US) continues to experience a crisis in their domestic airlift network,’ said the Minister.
The smaller jets will offer Cayman Airways the ability to not only improve service to Cayman Brac, including direct service from the US, but the flexibility to access more markets in the US for the Cayman Islands as a whole. These markets are expected to be soon announced by the Minister.
The CITA says it is fully supportive of the new aircraft and feels that the revenue opportunities for the tourism industry and the return on investment for the economy far outweigh the investment.
Over the last couple of months, the Cayman Islands Government has consulted with the CITA Board and private sector representatives to discuss the best possible new routes for the Cayman Islands.
CITA has been fully supportive of additional airlift in the North East (US markets), South America and increased airlift to the Sister Islands.
‘We welcome any additional airlift in the North East (US) region as a large part of our target market for the destination comes from there,’ said CITA Executive Director Trina Christian.
She added that a lot of research has been done on the South American market. ‘A lot of our stakeholders feel there is an untapped market there,’ she said. ‘With the US economic instability it’s important to look at what other markets there are out there with the right target market.’
Noting that the CITA works hand in hand with the Sister Islands Tourism Association, Ms Christian said that the No. 1 critical factor for tourism is airlift, both for Grand Cayman and the Sister Islands, so additional aircraft will obviously benefit and give more ability to service the Sister Islands.
The CITA feels the new aircraft are well suited to the customer base for the Cayman Islands.
‘The private sector partners are confident that the two Embraer jets that CAL is planning to lease are not only well aligned for the potential new gateways, they are also much more viable for any ‘thin routes’ verses CAL’s existing 737s,’ says the CITA statement.
‘Choosing a more fuel-efficient aircraft with a 70-seat capacity presents a better opportunity to successfully operate geo-targeted flights and makes higher load factors to new gateways more attainable and therefore allowing for a more frequent flight schedule.’
Back in May the Minister had announced that two 50-seater Saab turbo prop aircraft were to be acquired, but in June, because of the aviation fuel crisis, he said they were re-evaluating the decision and looking more towards 50 to 70-seater jets.
The Minister said the jets would give more flexibility to access more markets in the US in an aviation climate in which many US airlines are cutting domestic service and therefore access flights to Cayman’s main gateways.
The Minister also says the new option will be less expensive than acquiring the Saabs, which were not available for lease and would have had to have been purchased outright.
The CITA also believes this is a better option. ‘With the price of fuel skyrocketing it seems a much more responsible choice of additional fleet and adds potential business opportunities,’ said the press statement.
CITA and the Cayman Islands government are also exploring ways in which they can partner to ensure the new routes are successful.
‘Given the fact that the Cayman Islands Government is assuming the financial burden and demonstrating their commitment to our tourism product, CITA has challenged its members with the same level of commitment towards the marketing efforts.
‘CITA has been anxiously awaiting the news of exactly which gateways CAL will be going into so that they can align their marketing plans towards hopefully promoting the launch in late 2008.’
CITA plans to offer the same support and even more than what had been done with the launch of the New York (JFK) flight, which included a special promotion to entice visitors to book on Cayman Airways. ‘Such an offer would include special offers when there is proof of a Cayman Airways ticket. Offers will include a resort credit at the hotels, special rates on condo/villa properties, discounts at the restaurants and off water sports and attractions,’ said the CITA statement.
Private sector tourism stakeholders in Cayman Brac, such as Trudy Viers, Manager of the Brac Reef Beach Resort, and Cleveland Dilbert, who is building a 33 room hotel on the island, believe that direct airlift connecting the Brac with South Florida will be a tremendous boost for tourism there.
The two 19-seat Twin Otters must continue to service Little Cayman until the runway at the Edward Bodden Airfield is extended, allowing larger aircraft to land there.