Cheaper air fares on our national carrier would be a breath of fresh air for so many reasons in the Cayman Islands.
For starters, and selfish reasons, it would give Cayman Islands residents a bit of financial relief when they get Rock fever – the urge to get off the Islands and venture to the United States, Cuba or Jamaica.
But cheaper fares aren’t just good for local consumers.
Lower air fares could also be a drawing tool to lure more stayover tourists to Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.
It’s time for the Cayman Islands Tourism Association and the Government to come together to find ways to improve tourism packages offered through CAL.
Government is already subsidising CAL, but as tourism numbers dwindle, that task will become harder because there will be fewer coins in the government coffers.
When visitors fly to the Cayman Islands they are doing more than just buying a plane ticket. They are also paying various taxes.
When visitors buy an airline ticket they’re automatically charged a US$25 departure fee. A 10 per cent room tax is tacked on to hotel and condo bills and at many restaurants across the Islands a 15 per cent gratuity is automatically added.
Take into consideration the food our visitors buy in our supermarkets, the T-shirts and other souvenir trinkets, as well as the renting of cars and purchase of fuel and it’s easy to see that each and every stayover tourist leaves a lot of money on our Islands when they leave.
But when we take a look at recent air arrival numbers, we can see that we’re missing out on a lot of disposable income from our visitors.
Air arrivals for the month of May were 21,438, down from 25,722 in May of 2008.
For the month of April there were 27,973 air arrivals or 2,000 less than in April 2008.
Air arrival stats have been plummeting and that’s not good for any of us.
We believe that Government, working hand-in-hand, with those in the tourism industry can find a way to help lower rates on Cayman Airways.
It’s going to take some innovative thinking and possibly working with other, neighbouring countries.
But it can be done.
And while they’re at it, we hope that the long promised air ink between Cayman Brac and South Florida can become a reality. The promised Panama route would also be welcomed.
We hope the changes come sooner rather than later.