Photo of the Remarkables mountain range in Queenstown, New Zealand.

New airport would change tourism on Little Cayman

| 14/07/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS Business): The PPM government has announced its intention to develop an entirely new airport on Little Cayman, but Neil van Niekerk, Manager of the Southern Cross Club says this would completely change the tourism product the island offers. It is probably the single most photographed thing on the island,” he said.

Little Cayman airport

Edward Bodden Airfield

Plans to build a new airport on Little Cayman have been talked about for many years, as the current airstrip is built on private land and falls short of international airport requirements. The short runway also limits the type of aircraft that can land on the island and the island is serviced by two Twin Otter prop planes operated by Cayman Airways.

However, van Niekerk said the airport, which consists of a small wooden building and a short runway on an open stretch of grassland is something that improves the guest experience. “The repeat guests will go away and talk about it, and come back and look forward to seeing the baggage handler because they know his name,” he explained. “So when we start taking about redeveloping the airport we are really changing the tourism product that we’re offering the customer. And this is a very difficult and scary proposition for people.”

Little Cayman attracts a specific kind of tourist. “Most of them are ‘bucket list’ divers who come here because Little Cayman and Bloody Bay are on that list,” he said but resorts target repeat guest who come back because the island is low density and offers that unique guest experience – “and that definitely includes the airport”.

Redeveloping the airport into a large new property presents multiple problems, not just funding a new airport but the whole guest experience. He said people understand the challenges, such as security and fencing and lighting that need to be overcome, “but the bigger question is, why are we changing the product?”

From an environmental perspective, developing a virgin piece of land into a 4,000-foot runway is going to destroy a large habitat. “When we start adding to the equation the damage to the environment that’s going to take place, we need to weight up the costs,” van Niekerk said.

He believes that negotiating with the landowners who own the property where the airport sits regarding extending the current runway is still a viable option, especially as the landowners are also invested in the businesses on the island.

Having a runway that could possibly land jets is not something that the Little Cayman residents would support, van Niekerk said, because landing bigger aircraft raises the possibility of unstainable development on the island.

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Category: Stay-over tourism, Tourism, Video

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