There is just something about a first love, and for Kel Thompson, that professional ardour began decades ago at none other than Cayman Airways, not only working as managing director for the company but achieving high acclaims as one of its youngest captains at age 26. It was his time at the airline, from management experience to working with its technical aspects, that would help prepare him for his work in the hospitality and tourism sector.
Amongst his many endeavours, Thompson is the director at Century 21 Caribbean and Thompson Resorts. He also returned last year to Cayman Airways as a First Officer. In 2015, he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Cayman Islands Tourism Association’s annual Stingray Tourism Awards for his contributions over the span of three decades to the Island’s tourism industry.
Cayman Airways Skies caught up with Thompson to talk about success, new projects in motion and returning to the world of aviation.
What part of the development process do you enjoy the most?
I like all of it. I like conceiving a development and executing it. Getting it done. It always comes with a lot of challenges. I like building things. I like doing things. Building a house — this is sort of a manufacturing process as well. I enjoy doing that sort of stuff. Working out a system where we can improve and build a better product, maybe a little bit faster, and maybe for a little bit less than we did last time.
What’s your definition of success?
I share this thought from a very wise man who shared it with me. The only thing that money can do is give you options, but it doesn’t buy happiness. Yes, one way of measuring success is by what people would call wealth. But if you have good health and friends and family, that’s more important than being by yourself with a load of cash, or having a big house or a fancy car. My definition of success is being satisfied with where you are and where you think you’re going.
Are there any upcoming new projects on the horizon?
We have a software business and a new product under development, Cayman Pal. Not a property development, this is going to be a tool that will be used by tourists and locals alike to help them enjoy Cayman. For the locals, it will feature what’s happening — from parties to church services, as well as what is for sale or rent. It will have links to the telephone directory that we own, Cayman.Directory, as well. Cayman Pal is going to help our visitors enjoy a nice vacation experience and expose them to the best that Cayman has to offer.
Describe your experience at Cayman Airways and your decision to return.
Especially when one gets to be 59 years old, there are times you may look back and say, “I could have done that differently.” One decision that for sure I do not regret was going to Cayman Airways. For me, that was first in 1978. Cayman Airways provided my first experience in managing a company with a lot of employees. My learning at Cayman Airways of revenue management together with the management of the reservation systems and tourism marketing and sales has served me very, very well in the resort business. It was tremendous exposure for me. No amount of tuition from my parents could ever have paid for as valuable an educational experience as what I gained. I am and shall forever be grateful to Cayman Airways and those who, over the years, opened doors and provided a path for me. I have returned now as a copilot, because I enjoy flying the well maintained airplanes. Indeed, I have taken up a post again for the same reason that I joined the first time: I enjoy Cayman Airways and love to fly. And whilst doing this, if I can positively influence some up-and-coming young pilot or other staff member, I will be satisfied.
Describe a perfect day in Cayman.
It would be a Saturday or a Sunday, primarily. I’d get up at 6:30 in the morning or before, run three or four miles, come back home and take a swim. Have coffee with my wife. She’ll have the coffee, and I may drink a cup of something else with her. Then I’ll go pick up my grandson. Hang out, maybe we’ll go for a swim, do some running around the pool. Feed and train my dogs. Then maybe later on he and the wife and I would go to the beach somewhere. Sometimes we’ll go to the resort. This would be a relaxing day.
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