(CMR) The Cayman Islands Government has approved four major projects to be undertaken at the Owen Roberts International Airport and the Charles Kirkconnell International Airport in the Cayman Brac for a combined cost of CI$76 million.
These projects will be carried out under the airport redevelopment plan as proposed in a business case presented in the updated Airport Master Plan, which was recently completed.
Minister of Tourism Kenneth Bryan announced on Tuesday that the projects would include extending the runway at the Owen Roberts International Airport (ORIA) at the cost of CI$28 million, improving the air traffic control surveillance system at the ORIA at the cost of $4.7 million, the provision of a new general aviation facility at the cost of $42 million and runway and safety area works at the Charles Kirkconnell International Airport at the cost of $1.15 million.
He said the projects were strategically selected after careful consideration of all the options presented in the business case and the associated cost.
The revenue to fund these projects will come from increasing the terminal fee to $5 and implementing a new airport development fee of $15.
“It is important to note that the Airport Authority will not require any funding from Government to complete these projects. The new airport development fee will be applicable only during the construction period, which is estimated to be for 6 years from 2024 to 2029,” Mr. Bryan explained.
The Minister assured that the Cayman Islands would not be pricing itself out of the market as these fees will align with other countries such as Jamaica and the Bahamas.
The Minister said these projects “represent a significant and necessary investment in our airport facilities which serve as our international gateways and window to the rest of the world.”
These projects will address regulatory and safety concerns, provide business development opportunities for the country, are affordable to the country, and provide a solid foundation to support continued growth in the tourism sector, he said.
The Minister explained that the next steps will be public consultation, Environmental Impact Assessment, and procurement.
While all the projects will be done in tandem, the air traffic control surveillance will be addressed as soon as possible. There is currently no air traffic control system in place at the ORIA, meaning air traffic is controlled manually.
The runway extension at the ORIA is expected to go approximately 1,900 feet into the North Sound, providing an additional 1,115 feet of usable runway and a required 787 runway and safety area on each end.
Speaking to the importance of extending the runway, Director of Tourism Rosa Harris said proposals from airlines such as Eurowings and Virgin fell through because of the size of the runway.
Albert Anderson, CEO of the Cayman Islands Airport Authority, also stated, ” As currently during peak times, we have to limit how long an aircraft can remain on the ramp due to space restrictions…the proposed runway extension into the North Sound will enable more long haul flights to fly directly into and out of Grand Cayman.”
Ms. Harris said the upgrade of the facilities would have a positive impact on Cayman's tourism product.
“Given that the traveler's first and last impression of the Cayman Islands is influenced by the airport experience, our islands require the general aviation facility to be consistent of sophisticated luxury,” Ms Harris stated.