Leader of Government Business McKeeva Bush wants cheaper fares and more routes on the national carrier, Cayman Airways.
And the Cayman Islands Tourism Association is calling for support from the Government in getting the national flag carrier engaged in tourism promotions for the good of the destination’s tourism industry.
Speaking at a press briefing last week, Mr. Bush said he had already had discussions with other islands that need more air services. He promised to reveal more details about those discussions at an upcoming national briefing on his plans for tourism.
The new tourism minister is also not impressed with some of the prices Cayman Airways is charging.
‘I am going to ask them to look at how we can reduce Cayman Airways rates,’ Mr. Bush said. ‘Sometimes I have to pay $500 – $600 for a seat to Miami. It’s absolutely ridiculous.’
CITA is calling for help from the Government to step up the partnership between Cayman Airways and its tourism partners.
‘We’re looking for more support from the government on how best to utilise Cayman Airways for specials to support the destination and our tourism product,’ said Executive Director Trina Christian, speaking with the Caymanian Compass last week.
‘We know the public has always complained about CAL’s deficit, but I don’t think there’s been a proper case study done on the positive impact of bringing more tourists into the island – such as the additional accommodation tax to government, increased visitor spend, and once they get here businesses can do the rest. It’s all about getting more visitors, or at least trying to sustain them,’ she said.
Mrs. Christian explained that Cayman Airways simply does not have the resources to do some of the initiatives that they could with private and public sector partners.
‘So the government needs to give them tools so they can work with their tourism partners,’ she said.
In a tough financial climate and one in which many other islands are crying out for airlift, she said it’s a situation they can control and an important tool they can use.
Mr. Bush on Thursday named former Ernst and Young Partner Jude Scott as the new chairman of the airline. Establishing new routes will be one of Mr. Scott’s first priorities as chairman, Mr. Bush said.
‘There is a need in the region for us to partner with other territories and countries in the region,’ he said. ‘The planes don’t make money on the ground; the plane makes money in the air.’
Mrs. Christian also said the tourism industry is looking to have more involvement with Cayman Airways, and other tourism-related Government boards, at board level.
She said they are asking for continued consultation where Cayman Airways is looking at development of new routes and services.
‘They did get us involved in this for the Washington and New York routes but it’s something we’d like to see continue and to see more of it,’ she said.
Former Tourism Minister Charles Clifford told the Legislative Assembly last year that Cayman Airways’ 737 jets spend about 10.5 hours in the air every day. That placed them below an industry standard he put at 12 to 15 hours per day, but much better than the 4.5 hours of daily air-time he said the airline’s fleet was averaging when he came to office in 2005.
Mr. Clifford presided over new Cayman Airways routes to New York, Washington, Honduras as well as the reintroduction of a winter route connecting Grand Cayman and Chicago. Mr. Clifford was also involved in negotiations about a new route between Panama and Grand Cayman, which is yet to materialise. The planned acquisition of small jet or turbo-prop aircraft to link Cayman Brac with South Florida never got off the ground.