Cayman’s tourism community has identified Dallas, Texas, as a potentially successful market for the destination.
“It is one of the most densely populated US cities for dive shops,” said Trina Christian, executive director of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association, which represents more than 200 private sector tourism businesses.
“They are all based on dive travel because other than training in quarries they do not dive there. So it is very relevant and a great target audience for us. The demographic in Dallas is a good fit in Cayman; we see a significant number of arrivals particularly in our condo and villa segment in the summer months already.” Ms Christian said this demographic was also a little less rate sensitive, which was beneficial for the destination.
“Another big benefit is that Dallas is one of the largest hubs,” she said. “We are seeing an increase in traffic from the West Coast, but if we are to have a connection that made more sense, depending on the timing of the flight and code-sharing, it would definitely open up a huge amount of opportunity to increase West Coast arrivals.”
Objectives to achieve
The tourism association, Ms Christian said, has a number of objectives to achieve, including direct airlift from Dallas.
“It was seen as a quick win where we could increase arrivals and open up a gateway, which would offer significant opportunities for the destination,” she said. “In further discussions with our membership we have received an overwhelming response. Not only do they think it’s a great market for us, but people have already got sales presence in that area to assist. We’re open to do dedicated sales blitz and there would obviously be a promotion associated with the opening of a flight so we could get bums on seats and fill the plane and help to create awareness of the flight.”
Currently, American Airlines flies several times a week to Belize, four times a week to Cozumel and TACA to Roatan; all competing markets for the Cayman Islands.
Ms Christian said both the branded hotels and unbranded hotels, villas and condos were keen to do their part to spread the word, which was one of the most important aspects to launching any new flight.
“Some of the critical success factors are having early enough knowledge that a flight is going to go ahead so private and public sector can go in and have an awareness blitz to drive up demand,” she said. “Coming up with a schedule to maximise benefits for the destination is also crucial. We recognise our limitations with our national carrier, which has a small fleet, but it is important to go in and set up a flight for success.”
Talks with CAL
The executive director said informal talks had already taken place with Cayman Airways in order to express the private sector’s interest in the idea and to have preliminary discussions about what the airline’s thoughts might be on Dallas as a strategic tourism route.
“This would not begin as a direct revenue generating flight for them when they are opening up a new tourism gateway,” Ms Christian said. “However, from a destination standpoint there are obvious benefits if we are driving new tourism here. The revenue then comes back to private and public sector through other sources by driving these guests down.
“It is a balance; there are routes, which are money making routes, but in a bigger picture there is a bigger picture to drive tourism, which is one of Cayman Airways’ mandates from government,” she said. “We recognise that this would be a partnership where we would support the route as much as possible with sales, marketing and promotions. We just need to have enough factors lined up where it is going to be feasible and ultimately beneficial for the destination.” Ms Christian said a commitment to two or three years would give the destination the opportunity to prove the feasibility of a potential new route, in the same way that successful routes to Washington DC and New York had been instigated by Cayman Airways and then copied by American Airlines and Delta, respectively.
Cayman Airways said it had no comment when contacted for this story.