Minister of Tourism and Entertainment, Hon. Dr. Wykeham McNeil, is forecasting a two per cent increase in tourist arrivals for the upcoming summer tourist season.
Still relishing the 19.9 per cent growth recorded for the 2011/2012 winter tourist season, over the similar period for 2010/2011, the Tourism Minister told journalists on May 3 that “we expect that this trend will continue and we are anticipating a growth for (the summer) period”.
Minister McNeil, who was addressing a press briefing at his New Kingston offices on Thursday (May 3), said the celebrations for Jamaica’s 50th anniversary of Independence, will help to boost arrival figures.
He noted that the Ministry is aware of the various challenges and the competing events during the period, including the London Olympics beginning in August, as well as the United States (US) Presidential elections in November, but is working with its various agencies and departments to maintain Jamaica as a viable tourist destination.
He said the Ministry will be ramping up efforts to target the Diaspora with special offers extended by its tourism partners, through travel agencies. “We will be encouraging them to travel home, especially for our Jamaica 50 celebrations,” Mr. McNeill said.
He further informed that the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) will be launching its ‘Experience Jamaica 2012’ campaign to promote local travel on May 8.
Special features of the campaign will include special rates and packages from hotels, attractions and other tourism entities targeting the domestic market.
Regarding airlift, Minister McNeil said that although there are challenges, the Ministry continues to work with its airline partners to bolster old gateways and open new ones.
He informed that “for the first time in many years” Jamaica has re-established charter flights out of Dallas, Texas in the US, twice a week for the summer months. In addition, there will be non-stop charters from Cincinnati and Nashville, one from each destination, adding some 8,500 new seats to Jamaica for the summer period.
Mr. McNeil also noted that Jet Blue airline has initiated new year-round service from Fort Lauderdale to Kingston, and WestJet is now providing three weekly flights out of Canada into Kingston. There is also an increase in arrivals out of Ecuador, which promises to generate some 3,000 seats during the summer.
The country can also expect more arrivals out of Brazil, Chile and Argentina, due to increased capacity from Copa Airlines, which now operates four times a week into Kingston. “And, it is to be noted that visa waivers for the South American markets including Colombia, Panama and Venezuela, have now been extended,” the Minister said.
He said Russian airline Aeroflot has received the requisite licence from the Russian Federal Air Transportation Agency to operate flights to Jamaica and is conducting analysis to ascertain the feasibility of operating scheduled flights from Moscow to Jamaica. “We await the results of this analysis,” Mr. McNeil remarked.
As it relates to the United Kingdom (UK) market, the Minister said Virgin Atlantic, which now offers two weekly flights into Montego Bay, will increase to three flights starting in November.
By Athaliah Reynolds-Baker, JIS Reporter