The geographic regions with the most potential to become significant sources of tourism for the Cayman Islands are Texas, Brazil and Panama, said Acting Director of Tourism Shomari Scott.
The government is talking with Cayman Airways about opening routes to/from Dallas and Panama, he said, stressing that discussions about the latter are extremely preliminary.
In October, the Cayman Islands Tourism Association strongly backed the idea of flying direct to Dallas, which Mr. Scott said has an abundance of individuals who travel for diving, leisure and romance. The north Texas metropolis is one of a handful of US cities to be least affected by the recession, and is located in a state that has also persisted through general economic woes comparatively well.
Specifically, the Department of Tourism is speaking with Cayman Airways about weekly or twice weekly service to the city, he said. Currently, he said, “A lot of divers go to Hawaii because there are direct flights.”
Cayman Airways has a long relationship with the Lone Star State, operating a route to Houston from 1977 to 2007. The Houston flight was the second United States route launched by the national airline.
Central and South America
Beyond the US, Brazil and Panama are attractive markets, he said.
“Brazil is an area, especially Sao Paulo, that has the type of household incomes that we go after,” Mr. Scott said.
Many Brazilians in and near Sao Paulo already have US visas, which would be useful for potential visitors to Cayman who would be making a connecting flight in Miami, and many speak English, so language difference is not seen as a serious barrier, Mr. Scott said.
Likewise, many professionals in Panama speak English in addition to Spanish, the country’s official language. While the poverty rate in Panama is above 30 per cent, upper-income individuals in the country have lifestyles and a level of disposable income on par with the US. The Panamanian population of 3.4 million is relatively well-educated, with a 95 per cent literacy rate and 35 per cent pursuing education after high school. The distance from Cayman to Panama is about 730 miles, roughly equivalent to the distance from Cayman to Jacksonville, Florida, or from Cayman to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
Sao Paulo, meanwhile is about 3,750 miles from Cayman. That is more than twice the distance from Cayman to New York City (1,500 miles), and is farther from Cayman to Vancouver, Canada (3,100 miles). The powerhouse economy in South America, Brazil has a population of about 200 million people, with nearly 20 million of those in the Sao Paulo metropolitan region.
Mr. Scott made his remarks during a tourism industry luncheon Thursday, which was part of the continuing rollout of the Ministry of Tourism’s ‘Caymankind’ effort. During the same event, Premier McKeeva Bush also talked about focusing on the Dallas tourism market, as well as “South American countries that have good economies”.
Mr. Bush also referred to efforts to expand facilities and extend the runway at Owen Roberts International Airport to allow for direct flights from Europe.
“That has been a dream of mine, but I do not believe that we can continue putting this off as we have done over the years, and stopping and starting as we are so well known for in these Islands,” he said. “We really have to get the airport built, get the airport extended, to do this. Hopefully we will soon be able to announce that airport construction is starting in earnest.”