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Jamaica has secured airlift out of several South American and Eastern European countries, which is expected to bring thousands of visitors to the island for the summer and winter months.

Minister of Tourism and Entertainment, Hon. Dr. Wykeham McNeill, made the announcement on Monday, April 29, at a Jamaica Product Exchange(JAPEX) media roundtable at the Half Moon Hotel in Montego Bay.

He credited the development to work being undertaken to diversify source markets and increase flights to the island from major players.

“We have successfully broken into the Latin American market and have made significant headway in reducing the barriers to travel. Specifically, we have relaxed the visa requirements for nationals from Colombia, Venezuela and Panama, and we have implemented direct airlift arrangements with Copa Airlines. Additionally, I am sure you will have noticed that we have improved the experience of arrival in Jamaica,” Dr. McNeill said.

This summer, Copa Airlines will be providing four flights per week to Kingston and four to Montego Bay from its hub in Panama City, up from the two flights per week.

Dr. McNeill said the Eastern European markets are also showing “real solid potential,” with Russia in particular starting to produce good numbers.

“Recently, we announced the decision of Cabinet to approve the waiving of visa requirements for nationals of Russia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Ukraine, which is another success as we move to further open these markets,” he said.

He informed that negotiations are underway to increase flights out of Moscow for the 2013/2014 winter period.

“Currently we have one flight out of Moscow every 10 days, however, we are in the middle of negotiations to increase this to two flights on a 10-day rotation for the 2013/2014 winter period,” he informed, noting that Condor Airlines will be making an additional flight out of Munich in November.

In addition, the charter service out of the Czech Republic will continue for the winter, while Thomas Cook will be providing new service out of Stockholm starting in November, with further expansion of service in December.

Virgin Atlantic will increase service from the United Kingdom (UK) to three weekly flights into Montego Bay, up from two for last summer, while TUI will be offering a fifth flight from the UK in summer 2014.

As it relates to the North American markets, Dr. McNeill informed that as of July 1, Kingston will be the first destination for Air Canada’s leisure carrier, Rouge. Additionally, he said, Air Canada Vacations has outlined significant growth plans for Jamaica “as we head into next winter and beyond”.

Dr. McNeill said the Ministry is confident of adequate airlift out of the United States, which he said, will facilitate growth in the country’s major source market, which will be further bolstered by Air Tran, which now has four flights per week out of Chicago.

By Chris Patterson, JIS Reporter