Tourism staying focused on US

Direct flights from Europe not currently needed, report says

An extension to the runway at Grand Cayman’s airport has been deemed unnecessary because the island does not currently need to focus on the United Kingdom and Europe as tourism markets. 

A report by PwC suggests developing the runway – which would cost between $20 million and $40 million depending on the length of the extension – is not currently worth the expense. 

Proposals to increase the runway size in order to accommodate direct long-haul flights from Europe have been discussed for more than a decade. 

But the PwC report suggests there is enough untapped demand in the U.S. and Central America to fill available hotel space in Cayman without spending large sums to facilitate direct travel from Europe. 

It also points out that no airline has committed to flying direct to Cayman and suggests that demand for the service does not currently exist. 

The report states, “Based on consultation with the Cayman Islands Tourism Association, the Department of Tourism and private sector stakeholders, the tourism focus for the Cayman Islands remains North America, where the bulk of current visitors are sourced and where there remains significant untapped potential for route development. South America is also considered to be of growing importance.”  

It says Caribbean destinations that cater to the U.K. and European tourism markets, such as Jamaica and Barbados, have a greater focus on, and room capacity for, mass packaged tourism. The report states, “It is unclear whether there would be sufficient demand to support frequent long-haul flights at present. The Department of Tourism noted that the Cayman Islands are probably at least 10-15 years off focusing on the U.K. and European markets.” 

Despite that assessment, the consultants recommend that environmental and traffic impact studies on runway extension scenarios begin soon so that authorities can be prepared if and when the market changes. 

It suggests two scenarios – an extension to 8,000 feet, which would involve rerouting Crewe Road and cost around $20 million, or an extension to 9,200 feet, which would involve an incursion into the North Sound and take the cost beyond $40 million.  

The less expensive option would be enough to accommodate direct flights from British Airways’s new Boeing 777 planes assuming an 80 percent load factor – that is, a full load of passengers with cargo restrictions. Given the disruption to road traffic flow that this option would cause, the consultants point out detailed studies would be needed on how the road network could be reconfigured. 

If airlines insist on a 100 percent load factor, things get more complex. The runway would need to be at least 9,200 feet, which would mean an eastward extension into the North Sound, with serious cost and environmental implications. 

Technical consultants WSP Canada suggest, in their report accompanying the business case, that the environmental considerations are so complex that some initial studies should begin immediately. They also recommend traffic studies start now on the westward expansion, saying this would “permit the project to be executed efficiently in the future should it be triggered by a financially sound business opportunity.” 

The PwC report also points out that the potential for expansion into European markets is limited by available accommodation. 


  1. Cayman cannot afford this right now anyway so the focus needs to be places on the immediate needs at the airport which can easily be resolved without such high expenditure through a creative redesign strategy of the current facility. What ever happened to austerity? It just seem to be common sense to get out of debt before even think of spending so much money.

  2. If the early developers of tourism in the Cayman Islands had taken the same thought process as PwC there would be no tourism in these islands.

    Given the mainstays of our economy are tourism and international finance and the fact that the per capita spend of the cruise visitor in very low it may be wise to develop our stay-over tourism product by developing and marketing to those areas of the world that can afford the Cayman Islands, and may also benefit our finance industry. The areas I am speaking of are China and the Persian Gulf. I would suggest that the Cayman Islands government re-evaluate the the thinking on this matter.

    Nicholas Robson
    Cayman Institute

  3. BA did look at using 777s on the Cayman Islands route as they were phasing out the last DC-10s in the early 1990s but decided it wasn’t feasible. That was back in the days when a round trip ticket from Gatwick was about GBP350 and they operated a direct flight out to ORA then staged through Nassau on the return trip.
    Right now BA will never fly latest generation aircraft like the 777-300 here when they could be better used on established, more profitable routes. This is proverbial pie in the sky. In fact I bet BA are already losing so much money flying nearly empty 767s between Nassau and ORA it hardly makes sense for them to operate here at all.
    The real solution is not to try and get direct flights but to establish CAL connecting flights with operators like First Choice and Thomson who already fly 1000s of tourists into places like the DR, Cuba and Jamaica. That’s a win-win option because we get tourists and CAL gets revenue, the options given by PwC are just a joke. The only problem with going that way is that the Cayman Islands needs to up its game and join the all-inclusive holiday market.

  4. I have some unjustifiable and affordable but really cool sounding projections and recommendations to sell, how do I contact the CIG about my consulting services? I promise that they will successfully delay and distract everyone while making you look hard at work until the next election..

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