By Alexander Britell and Guy Britton
A new-state-of-the-art Caribbean airport opened its doors on Wednesday, with a very special guest on hand to do the honors.
The United Kingdom’s Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall were on hand to officially open the new, modernized Owen Roberts International Airport in the Cayman Islands.
“Our pledge to provide the Cayman Islands with a world-class airport in collaboration with the Cayman Islands Airports Authority has been fulfilled,” Cayman Islands Deputy Premier and Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell told the crowd. “It conveys to all travelers that you are very, very important to us.”
The striking new airport, which was built by McAlpine and designed by RS&H, includes everything from a new shopping gallery and food court to a new boarding gate system, a new ticketing hall and immigration hall to new restaurants to amenities like nursing stations for mothers and a children’s play area.
That’s along with eco-friendly touches like a geothermal air conditioning system, a reflective roof and high-efficiency LED lighting.
More crucially, the new airport has a massively expanded capacity, from the old airport’s capacity of about 500,000 visitors per year to a new capacity for as many as 2.7 million passengers every year.
It’s a significant new chapter for an airport that first debuted in the early 1950s.
There is more to come, too, with plans for a lengthened runway by another 400 feet and to increase the taxiways.
“We know the memories our visitors make while in our islands will be unforgettable, and with the official opening of this airport, we are offering them a chance to embrace and cherish those memories forever,” Cayman Premier Alden McLaughlin said. “The new Owen Roberts International Airport gives us all a better, more customer-friendly traveling experience.”
It comes as the Cayman Islands is seeing record-breaking tourism numbers, part of a strategic push to strengthen its tourism sector in an increasingly competitive regional market.
In a region where more islands are grasping the importance of having modern, internationally competitive airports, it’s a huge new addition.
And as Kirkconnell said, it’s an important message to the destination’s visitors.