Island could develop as ‘stand alone’ destination
Upgrades to the Brac airport, including an X-ray machine for checked baggage, will allow for the processing of international flights on the island.
The work is expected to be complete in time for new routes to begin operating in 2014.
“Our goal is to be completed in February, so that Cayman Airways can have flights coming in and out of the Brac on the Cuba route,” Mr. Kirkconnell told the Caymanian Compass.
He said the proximity of the Brac to eastern Cuba and the success of the Florida-Cayman-Cuba route through Grand Cayman, were encouraging signs that a route through the Brac would work well.
He accepted there would not be enough demand for direct flights from the United States to Cayman Brac. By targeting the Florida-Cuba market, he believes Cayman Airways can boost passenger numbers enough to make the route economically viable, while bringing in some tourists direct from the U.S.
A spokeswoman for Cayman Airways declined to give details of any routes planned through the Brac because of “the commercially sensitive nature of the industry.”
She added, “The airline does see merit in flights through the Brac and would intend to utilize the airport for such flights.”
The new baggage screening equipment is vital to allow the processing of international flights on the Brac.
Currently jets can fly in to the island from the U.S., but need to return via Grand Cayman.
Mr. Kirkconnell, in his budget address to the Legislative Assembly, also outlined plans for an expanded departure lounge and an enhanced arrivals facility at the Charles Kirkconnell International Airport, as well as a Cayman Airways reservations center and cargo facility.
“This will help to relieve some of the stress on Owen Roberts Airport and promotes the use of our airports for maximum economic benefit,” he added.
He said he was confident that increased airlift to the Brac would encourage developers to invest.
Neil van Niekerk, president of the Sister Islands Tourism Association, said Cayman Brac had been crying out for a new hotel development for several years.
“The Brac has needed a new hotel since the Divi Tiara Beach Resort closed in 2007,” Mr. van Niekerk said. “I understand they would be interested in investing and rebuilding at that site if the airlift was there.
“It is a double-edged sword. People say we can’t do the airlift until there are hotels, but the developers won’t invest in the hotels until the airlift is there.”
He said he was encouraged that the development of the airport was moving ahead and felt the Brac had the potential to expand as a “stand alone” tourist destination.