Government has initiated moves to begin trading and possible direct Cayman Airways flights to Roatan, Honduras as Premier Hon Alden McLaughlin led a high-powered delegation to the Central American island on Tuesday (16 August) for bi-lateral talks.
Premier McLaughlin, in a media statement announcing the whirlwind one-day visit, said the delegation, which included Deputy Premier Hon Moses Kirkconnell and CAL President and CEO Fabian Whorms among others, went to the island to talk about increasing in trade between Honduras and the Cayman Islands.
“There are great opportunities for shipment of Honduran products to Cayman including meat, seafood and produce. 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,” Premier McLaughlin said pointing out that direct importation of seafood and produce would reduce the cost of living for the people of Cayman.
A brief discussion, the statement said, was also held on the creation of a consular office for the Republic of Honduras on Grand Cayman as many Caymanian families can trace their roots to Roatan. By 1844, the statement said, there were more than 250 Caymanians who had moved to the island.
Today many Caymanians know or are related to someone in the Bay Islands and about 7,500 Hondurans live and work in the Cayman Islands, the statement added.
Bi-lateral discussions, according to the media statement from the Office of the Premier, were also held with private sector members who work in tourism and the food industries.
Mr McLaughlin, in selling Cayman to the packed room of public and private sector stakeholders on Roatan, said, “You will do better and we will save more money through direct trade”.
The Premier also seized the opportunity to broach the issue of cruise ship berthing as Roatan has two cruise ship berthing facilities, the Town Center and Mahogany Bay.
He told officials that his delegation “wanted to come and see what you have and talk to you about your own personal experiences with cruise berthing.”
Mr McLaughlin pointed out that Cayman is “a long way down the track to start construction of cruise berthing on Grand Cayman.”
Deputy Premier Kirkconnell, speaking on the issue of cruise berthing, pointed out that talking with public and private sector stakeholders and visiting the cruise berthing piers in Roatan gave the Cayman delegation a first-hand learning experience.
He added, according to the statement, that Cayman has visited other cruise berthing sites in the Caribbean.
“Everyone has been willing to share their experiences with us. 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,” Mr Kirkconnell added.
The possibility of opening direct flights from Grand Cayman to Roatan was also discussed at the table as Deputy Premier Kirkconnell pointed out that Grand Cayman would be the perfect connection destination for travellers from Roatan going to Miami, Florida.
“The Cayman Islands is already an in-transit facility meaning passengers traversing to another destination are not required to clear immigration,” the statement added.
“We have the expertise, the equipment and shortly we will have the newest fleet in the region,” Mr Kirkconnell boasted as he pointed out that Cayman Airways is replacing its four 737-300 airplanes, all of which range in age from 15 to 20 years, with new 737-Max planes.
The fleet modernisation is expected to be complete by 2020. The new fleet will be more fuel efficient allowing for longer distances and increased passenger and cargo capacity, the statement said.
Mr Kirkconnell, according to the statement, said Cayman Airways already has a route to La Ceiba, Honduras, and “the expansion to Roatan would be good for both countries.”
Chairman of the CAL Board Philip Rankine, as well as, CAL Vice President of Airport Operations Ivan Forbes were also part of the discussions.
Roatan Economic Minister Arnaldo Castillo, according to the statement, said his government would create a group to begin working on what needs to be done to get Cayman Airways into Roatan.
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 language, the statement said.
Congressional Representative for the Bay Islands Romeo Silvestri described the visit as a “historic moment for Roatan.”
Honduras Investment Minister Luis Mata and Mr Castillo, according to the statement said, they plan to bring a group of government and private sector investors and producers to the Cayman Islands soon to discuss the ramifications of doing business directly with the Cayman Islands.
The Cayman Islands delegation included representatives from the Ministry and Department of Tourism, Cayman Airways Ltd., the Cayman Islands Port Authority – including Chief Financial Officer James Parsons Jr., Manager of Cruise Operations Joseph Woods and Roylee Moore, Senior Political Advisor to the Premier Mr. Roy Tatum, Press Secretary to the Premier Tammie Chisholm and International Affairs Analyst Jamaal Anderson.