Imports, flights to Roatan on the table

Premier Alden McLaughlin, left, presents Congressional Representative for the Bay Islands Romeo Silvestri with a gift,

The prospect of direct flights and food imports from Roatan were discussed Tuesday when government and airline officials made a flying visit to the Honduran island.

Premier Alden McLaughlin and Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell led discussions with government officials and representatives of Roatan’s food and tourism industries.

“We went to talk about an increase in trade between Honduras and the Cayman Islands,” Mr. McLaughlin said in a government press release.

“There are great opportunities for shipment of Honduran products to Cayman including meat, seafood and produce,” he said. “It would mean a tremendous savings to consumers in the Cayman Islands as goods would not have to be shipped to Miami from Honduras and then forwarded here.”

Speaking to a packed room of public and private sector stakeholders on Roatan, Mr. McLaughlin said, “You will do better and we will save more money through direct trade.”

The group also talked about the possibility of opening direct flights from Grand Cayman to Roatan.

Mr. Kirkconnell said Grand Cayman would be the perfect connection destination for travelers from Roatan going to Miami, Florida.

“We have the expertise, the equipment and shortly we will have the newest fleet in the region,” he added.

Chairman of the Cayman Airways board Philip Rankine, President and CEO Fabian Whorms and Vice President of Airport Operations Ivan Forbes were also on the trip. The delegation chartered the Cayman Airways Saab aircraft for the visit.

Cayman’s leaders also examined cruise ship berthing facilities in the town center and Mahogany Bay.

“We wanted to come and see what you have and talk to you about your own personal experiences with cruise berthing,” Mr. McLaughlin told those at the meeting, according to the press release. “We are a long way down the track to start construction of cruise berthing on Grand Cayman.”

Mr. Kirkconnell said that talking with public and private sector stakeholders and visiting the cruise berthing piers in Roatan gave the Cayman delegation a firsthand learning experience.

“Everyone has been willing to share their experiences with us,” he said. “We believe, though, that we all need to be up to the same standard to make the cruising experience in the Caribbean worthwhile. We’re here to gather information. The more we work with our regional partners the better it makes us and the product.”

Emilio Silvestri, the director of the Honduran Institute of Tourism, said Roatan would be a special market for the Cayman Islands as the two countries share culture and history.

Many Caymanian families can trace their roots to Roatan where, by 1844, there were more than 250 Caymanians who had moved to that island. Today, many Caymanians know or are related to someone in the Bay Islands. About 7,500 Hondurans live and work in the Cayman Islands.

“This is a historic moment for Roatan,” said congressional representative for the Bay Islands Romeo Silvestri.

The Cayman Islands delegation included representatives from the Ministry and Department of Tourism, Cayman Airways, the Port Authority, Senior Political Advisor to the Premier Roy Tatum and International Affairs Analyst Jamaal Anderson.