By Christopher Tobutt
Owen Roberts International Airport was very busy on Thursday 17 February, and one of the main reasons was the return of American Airlines.
It was a significant indicator showing that Cayman's tourism industry is on the road back from the slowdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
That was also evident in the buzz of travel activity at the airport.
On hand to welcome back the main carrier on the vital US route were senior tourism officials, including Hon. Minister of Tourism Minister Kenneth Bryan, and Director of the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism, Rosa Harris, as well as Parliamentary Secretary Dwayne Seymour.
AA's return to Cayman follows less than a week after a similar welcome back for United Airlines.
“I’m pretty excited, even more excited than I was last week,” Mr Bryan said.
“It's an exciting day for tourism and the Cayman Islands from a job perspective, more and more of these major airlines are returning and that is going to mean we'll be in pretty good standing in a couple of months.”
The good news of the airlines’ return has coincided with a significant easing of Covid protocols for visitors.
On the issue of maintaining a balance between the needs of the economy and the needs of public health, Mr. Bryan said, “The good news is that the world, along with Cayman, is learning to live with covid in the midst. The science behind it is improving, so I’m excited about that because it helps us to move forward.
Director of Tourism Rosa Harris said, “Its wonderful to see American Airlines return today. We have kept them updated on our reopening strategy, all of our decisions and our incremental progress to reopening the borders. It is so important to have their service for the island’s sake. Cayman is dependent on their service, not just American Airlines, but all of the airlines including our national airline, Cayman Airways. Airlift is our oxygen and we need this service to keep our economy going.
Parliamentary Secretary. Seymour commented: “I am very pleased because American Airlines was supposed to come back in April, and now they are coming back in February. This shows that a lot of the decisions that the government is making in terms of protocols and lifting them as we see fit has now given the airlines confidence to come back to these beautiful Cayman Islands. We thank them for agreeing to be long term partners."
Mr Seymour who was health minister in the previous government also observed that “Covid-19 is probably going to be around us for a long time and we need to learn how to live with it. The longer we restrict our country from getting back to some kind of normal, the worse our economy will become. It’s a balancing act and obviously we’ll assess as we go along, month by month to see how things are going in terms of the safety of our people here in this country.”