Cayman Airways kicked off its twice-weekly service to the Bay Island of Roatan Thursday (16 March) night. A new gateway for the national flag carrier, one that reinforces long-standing ties between the two islands.
Cayman Airways CEO Fabian Whorms told Cayman 27 there have been years of talk about adding a Roatan flight, but in the more recent past, and in the last 8 or 9 months in particular, new strategies emerged to take the idea from talk to reality. The first of these is the idea of dual destination marketing, and number two is building on the successes of the airline’s popular route to LaCeiba.
Last August, government launched top-level talks with the Honduran president on a trip to Roatan, and you’ll remember, the very next month the Honduran government made a reciprocal visit. And as they say in the movies, the rest is history.
“Welcome to Roatan, welcome to Honduras,” said Honduras Tourism Minister Emilio Silvestri.
Mr. Silvestri joined other Honduran officials and the Roatanian public in rolling out the red carpet for passengers and crew as they disembarked from the Cayman Airways 737 aircraft.
“We’ve been working on this for many years, and really there’s a lot of excitement and a lot of happiness today that it is finally happening,” he said.
He told Cayman 27 the route between Roatan and Grand Cayman provides his country a boost in connectivity with the United States, European, and Caribbean markets.
“It really improves the possibility of expanding and getting other types of tourists that at this moment are not coming to Roatan,” explained Mr. Silvestri.
“We are actually trying to create a new sector within the marketplace,” said Cayman Airways CEO Fabian Whorms.
While one could argue the Cayman Islands and Roatan are in competition for the same customer, Mr. Whorms believes today’s tourist wants a “super sized” travel experience.
“It creates an avenue for someone who is seeking that mega-extreme diving vacation where they can have two of the worlds best dive sites in one incredible dive vacation,” said Mr. Whorms.
He told Cayman 27 he is hopeful the dual-destination strategy will pan out to be a win-win for the two countries. Mr. Whorms said if the successes from the airline’s LaCeiba route are any indication, the Honduran market is ripe for growth.
“Cayman Airways tweaked its flight scheduled to provide connecting flights between Honduras and other Cayman anyways gateways such as New York, Miami, and Jamaica,” he explained. “This has resulted in the increase in traffic between Cayman and Honduras.”
While excitement is almost always high for the launch of a new gateway, those on both sides appear committed to its long-term success.
How deep is that commitment? Mr. Whorms told the Honduran media Cayman Airways will sustain pricing at whatever level is necessary to make the flight a success. He said key to that is making sure the connections are timed out so travelers on the Roatan flight can easily connect from Grand Cayman to other destinations in the Cayman Airways portfolio.
Mr. Whorms addressed concerns many Hondurans had about visas for travel to the Cayman Islands.
He said in-transit passengers, who spend less than 24 hours in the Cayman Islands before travelling on to another final destination, there is no visa requirement. Mr. Whorms hinted government is giving at least some consideration to the idea of opening a visa office in either LaCeiba or Roatan at some point in the future.