Cayman Airways to go west in search of new tourists

Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell, flanked by Deputy Director of the Department of Tourism Oneisha Richards and chief officer Stran Bodden, brief business leaders at a Chamber of Commerce breakfast Wednesday. – PHOTO: JAMES WHITTAKER

Cayman Airways will begin flying direct to the western United States early next year, Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell told business leaders at a Chamber of Commerce breakfast briefing Wednesday.

The Cayman Compass understands that Denver is one of the cities being considered for a new direct flight.

Mr. Kirkconnell said, “We are very close to an announcement of a new gateway for early next year. I would say that would be in the western part of the United States.”

He said the strategy was to use Cayman Airways’ new jets, which have the capacity to reach further-flung destinations, to tap into new markets.

He said there were affluent populations along the west coast, from Los Angeles to Vancouver, that were within the right demographic for Cayman’s luxury product.

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“The look at new gateways is on now,” Mr. Kirkconnell said.

“We want to open the west coast because we believe it is an under-served market for Cayman.” He said research on the cost and benefit was 95 percent complete and an announcement of the new route would likely happen within the next few weeks. Speaking during a question and answer session, Mr. Kirkconnell acknowledged that Cayman Airways had already used its newest jet for a charter flight from San Diego for the rock band Kiss, who flew in for a private event in December.

The change of direction for Cayman Airways is partially borne of necessity, with the national carrier losing ground in Cuba, a formerly profitable route, because of U.S. airlines coming into that market. Mr. Kirkconnell said the national airline, in purely economic terms, was a victim of its success in Florida and in markets like Dallas. He said CAL had opened up those routes and shown the demand for Cayman as a destination to other airlines, which had now come in and flooded the market.

But, he said, Cayman Airways mission was not to make a profit itself but to allow the Cayman Islands as a destination to maximize its income.

Mr. Kirkconnell also addressed questions about the Owen Roberts International Airport redevelopment. He acknowledged the project would come in over the $55 million budget initially announced, but said this was down to some improvements that had been added to the design.

He said financial limitations had dictated the scope of the project in the early stages but government’s improved financial situation had enabled new features to be added. He cited the shaded canopies for visitors waiting for taxis outside the new terminal as one example.

He added, “We are really pleased with the value for money of what’s taken place there. In any project of that size, there are going to be changes.” He said the airport was on schedule for a soft opening in September, when the arrival and departure buildings are expected to be complete, and a full opening in December. Further improvements to the airside infrastructure, including taxiways, runway reinforcements and new plane parking space, will follow in the coming years.

The minister also sought to assure business leaders that the investment in “human capital” would match the investment in “bricks and mortar.”

He said government was working to ensure Customs and Immigration had enough officers on staff at key times to ensure a swift and efficient process.

As well as the question and answer session, Mr. Kirkconnell gave a presentation on the progress of the tourism industry, citing 20 percent growth in arrivals in the first quarter of 2018. Oneisha Richards, deputy director of the Department of Tourism, also updated Chamber members on the latest statistics and marketing strategies for the destination.

Chamber president Paul Byles said the session was part of a series of forums intended to give members access to those in power.

“Our businesses in the tourism sector want to be able to hear directly from policymakers, and that is what these sessions are about,” he said.

Future round-table events for officials and businesses are planned for the financial services and other industry sectors.

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  1. The Cayman is visited by many residents of the eastern US coast. We come from Boston every year and have connecting flights all over the place, from Miami, Charlotte, to New York. Even though many people from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire visit every year, we have no opportunity to get a direct flights to the island. Cayman Air has plenty of room to grow on the east coast, as well!!

    • Mr Brennan , I completely agree with you , that CAL and DOT should be focusing more on the eastern US Sates .

      I am a former watersports operator for over 20 years , with records of where the majority of the hundreds of thousands of my guest came from , and it was the eastern US States .
      I think that what they are trying to do is get closer to the Hollywood type clientele , but I don’t know if Cayman is completely ready for them .

      • I live in LA and would love a non-stop. What do you mean Cayman in not ready?

        Thursday and Sunday would be perfect days.

        I was talking with Alaska about this route since they pulled out of LAX-Cuba route.

  2. What is the Cayman luxury product exactly?

    The Dump? The crazy taxi and bus drivers that kill you before you even exit the airport area?
    Who would want to bring more people to the island without first upgrading sewage infrastructure, roads congestion and capping The Dump?
    Bring sewer system, public transportation and waste management into 21st century first, then invite more guests. You don’t eat caviar and sleep in a $1000+ per night room next to a stenchy, cancer causing open air dump ( unless you don’t know about it because it is not in the tourist brochures). Overcrowded beaches and roads is hardly a luxurious experience.
    You won’t even properly greet newly arriving passengers, as they do it in Hawaii, and thank them for visiting upon departure. I suggest to fly Hawaiian Airlines and see how they set the “welcome” mood before even departing for the islands.

    Money first, then visitors then residents?

  3. This is great but would love for them to consider three in Canada to cover the entire country. Right now there are only non stop flights out of Toronto on AC and they are early 9:00 AM which makes connections difficult especially in inclement weather. It would be great if they would consider Vancouver Toronto AND Halifax which would cover the entire country.

  4. @ L. Bell

    As you correctly say, ‘What is the Cayman luxury product exactly?’

    This is a classic example of small island thinking by people who have never seen what a real luxury resort is like. Bluntly, there’s nothing on these islands that comes close to the service you get at somewhere like a Sandals resort and there never will be while DoT continue to adopt this delusional attitude to the harsh realities of life.

    DoT’s concept of ‘high end’ is ‘expensive’ and what they can’t get a grip on is that what they’re dealing with is more like ‘over-priced’.

    As for CAL serving LA? Best of luck with that. I’ve flown out here from LAX a couple of times and the best option is a red-eye into MIA to catch an early morning flight out.

    • Exactly. Overpricing and luxury are not synonyms.

      Overpricing, if done correctly, can serve many specific purposes such as reduce the impact of tourism on Cayman residents, environment and infrastructure, generate more revenue to deal with the myriad complications of mass tourism and condition tourists to visit during periods of decreased demand when their impact on locals would be more limited.

      MAKE IT MORE EXPENSIVE approach is one of the solutions to overtourism. And let admit it, Grand Cayman don’t need more visitors, it needs a change in tourism management. It needs to become one of the most expensive destinations in the Caribbean along with St. Barthélemy and Anguilla.

      Offer more luxury experiences in a bid to attract higher-yielding travelers, charge more for tickets during peak periods. Tweak capacity in a way that things can be spread out, and that the demand can be managed and controlled through price. Limit access to high-demand attractions and increase the price of access at the same time. This is called demand management.

      In Cayman, creating luxury experience would start ONLY after the “cancer sore” aka Mount Trashmore is GONE, sewerage infrastructure upgraded and public transportation brought to the level of that in Bermuda. Make paprazzi illegal.

      Luxury tourism stars with stress free experience in ecologically pristine environment.
      Millennials – consumers aged 18-34, becoming the drivers of demand for luxury travel. Their concept of luxury is different than the traditional one. Instead of pampering, they’re more likely to seek out experiences. They are seeking eco-vacations.

      Unfortunately, Grand Cayman has noting to offer to high-end tourists because its ecology is far from being pristine.