KINGSTON — Jamaica has sealed arrangements which will see the island welcoming direct flights out of four South American countries beginning as early as November.
Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, who made the announcement during a press briefing at his New Kingston offices on Tuesday May 31, said that the countries are Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Ecuador.
He said that some 12,000 extra seats will be available from the South American market, doubling the current arrivals from that region.
The groundbreaking deals, he said, are the result of “a very extensive marketing programme” which was embarked on by the Ministry, along with the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) and Jamaica Vacations Ltd. (JAMVAC).
Minister Bartlett, JTB Chairman, John Lynch; and JAMVAC Director, Lionel Reid only recently returned from a three-country visit to South America where they held crucial meetings with tour operators and airline executives.
“We went primarily to break into the Brazilian market… and I am very pleased to tell you that we succeeded. We have structured an arrangement, which will be finalised to enable flights from Brazil to Jamaica somewhere around November to December of this year,” the Minister informed.
Arrangement has been forged with GOL airlines, the second largest carrier in Brazil, to commence charter service from Sao Paolo to Montego Bay, which will operate weekly for an initial six-month period.
He noted that the agreement with GOL, in addition to partnership with CVC tour, one of the largest tour operators in the Americas, “gives us immediate reach to every area of Brazil."
He noted that the key value of the deal is that it will bring in businesses during the shoulder months. “Their winter is our summer, and so during our shoulder months, like September, October, November, we can be assured of good traffic coming in during that time because that is what they call their high season,” he said.
Mr. Bartlett informed that deals were also forged with Principals Airlines (PAL) in Chile, and Satena in Colombia, in addition to Ecuador, which is an ongoing programme.
The agreement with PAL will see weekly direct air service between Santiago and Montego Bay starting in September this year. In Colombia, the Minister was able to structure an arrangement with Satena airlines that will commence in September 2011, and will see flights between Bogota/Medellin and Montego Bay.
“So between September and November we will be having new and exciting lifts out of South America to Jamaica,” Mr. Bartlett said. “That of course means that we have some work to do because we now need to configure our market to deal with the South Americans,” he added.
Minister Bartlett noted that with these new deals set to commence, there is much work to be done in terms of issues of language and communication and immigration.
“We have to ensure that more of our people in the industry are conversant with Spanish, because that’s an important way to ensure that they (visitors) are comfortable and that we are responding to them in a very positive and straight way,” he stated.
The Minister further noted that the country will also need to examine its visa regime as it relates to the South American market.
“The Minister of Foreign Affairs and I have been talking about it. We have to ensure that the ease with which visitors can arrive and operate in Jamaica is enhanced in every step of the way, whilst not neglecting at all the security and the protection of our country and our destination,” he stated.
Mr. Bartlett also informed that with some luck and further discussions, Argentina and Peru will join the group of countries. “So that hopefully by winter this year, Jamaica would be fully connected to the South American market,” he stated.
By ATHALIAH REYNOLDS, JIS Reporter