PANAMA CITY, Panama – Cayman Airways will start twice-weekly direct flight service to Panama on 31 May.
Speaking at the Cayman Night in Pamana reception to mark the start of a four-day trade mission to Pamana organised by the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce, Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush said having Cayman Airways establish a direct air route to Panama had been talked about for years and that it was time to actually do it.
“No, Cayman Airways’ inaugural flight [to Panama] was not today,” he said. “What I’m saying is soon come.”
This year’s trade mission marks the fourth time the Chamber of Commerce has arranged such a trip to Pamana, but it is the first one since 2008. In his address at the reception, that was attended by a number of government and business leaders from Panama, Chamber of Commerce President David Kirkaldy noted that the first trade mission took place six years ago this week.
“The chamber’s objective then was to open the door of opportunity between our two countries,” he said. “We wanted to introduce local representatives from the public and private sectors who would be motivated to work together to develop relationships. Most importantly, we wanted to create a level of trust that would encourage businesses in both of our countries to establish strong partnerships that would lead to a robust level of trade and investment.”
Mr. Kirkaldy said the original goals had been achieved, as evidenced by the level of trade and cooperation that now exists between the Cayman Islands and Panama.
“Since the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce started our visits six years ago, many millions of trade in goods and services has transpired,” he said. “Shipping and cargo services, which were limited at the start, are now significantly improved and export is a simple procedure with regular shipping services provided through Miami.”
One of the key aspects of that trade involves Cayman businesses sourcing and importing various goods from the Colon Free Trade Zone, Mr. Kirkaldy said, noting however that the connections between the two countries had evolved much beyond that.
“An impressive level of international financial business is being transacted between our countries as more attorneys, bankers, accountants and hedge fund managers discover the advantages of working together,” he said, adding many Caymanians have also purchased real estate in Panama.
”I am certain there are other areas on which we can work together to improve business, including the tourism, investment and development sectors,” he said. “Both Panama and the Cayman Islands are exceptional tourism destinations and there are lessons that we can share with each other to improve our product offerings so that more tourists may enjoy what our countries have to offer.”
Mr. Kirkaldy translated some of the passages of his address into Spanish as a courtesy to the Panamanians present. When Mr. Bush began his speech, he joked about his inability to speak the language.
“I’m not going to try and speak Spanish, OK?” he said.
Mr. Bush spoke about the long historical relationship Cayman has had with Panama.
“There exists a history and friendship between the two countries,” he said, noting many Caymanians worked on the Panama Canal, built boats in Panama and created family connections.
The new direct air route will run through November to coincide with the winter months in key South American cities like Sao Paulo to “facilitate and support existing South American leisure travel patterns”, Mr. Bush said.
“This venture that we have embarked on will not only further strengthen the mutually beneficial business and leisure interests that we share in common, but I am confident it will continue to open the door to bigger and better opportunities for us all – Caymanian businesses, Panamanian businesses and international businesses that ply between the two countries.”
Mr. Bush said extensive customer research and a compelling business case had been made to justify the funding, time and resources required to needed to establish the route. He said he supported the new route and that the government sometimes had to “venture” in order to create new economic opportunities.
Cayman Airways will partner with Panama’s COPA airline to maximise connectivity from key South American gateway cities.
“The Cayman Islands strategic plan for the South American market has long called for greater outreach in Panama, which essentially meant that an additional airline partner was needed to align with our objectives to grow market share,” Mr. Bush said. “I am pleased to say that in looking for such an airline with the connectivity that we desired, we could not have found a better partner than COPA Airlines.”
The trade mission continues until Friday.
On Wednesday, the two-day ExpoComer Trade Show opens. ExpoComer is the largest trade show in Central America, hosting more than 600 booths from more than 30 countries. For the first time this year, the Cayman Islands will have two booths at the ExpoComer, one from Cayman Airways and one from the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism.