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Tourism and Entertainment Minister, Hon. Dr. Wykeham McNeill, says the prospects are bright for stopover visitor arrivals to Jamaica for the 2013 summer tourist season.

This, he says, is based on market research conducted as well as airlift and forward bookings information available.

“We have already had growth in stopover arrivals in May of 2.3 per cent and June of 3.2 per cent. Figures for May, the first month of the summer, are showing a rebound in the Canadian market of 8.6 per cent over last year, and in May we returned to growth out of the United Kingdom for the first time in a long while of over 11 per cent,” he added.

Importantly, Dr. McNeill said “our airlift is up, especially out of Canada and we have concluded arrangements for additional seats out of the United Kingdom and Europe.”

The Minister was making his contribution to the 2013/14 Sectoral Debate in the House on July 2, under the theme: ‘A Sector for the People: Making Tourism for Us All’.

Outlining the airlift arrangements, Dr. McNeill said these include Air Canada’s new leisure carrier, Rouge, which made its inaugural flight to Jamaica on July 1, touching down at the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston.

“This marked a truly historic occasion, as this was the first flight by the carrier anywhere in the world. They could have gone to any destination, but they chose Jamaica. This speaks volumes of the strong relationship between Jamaica and our Canadian tourism partners,” the Minister noted.

Meanwhile, Dr. McNeill said they have given the assurance of an increase in the number of airlift seats between Toronto, Canada and Montego Bay. This, he pointed out, will see the number increasing from 65,000 to 100,000 seats, with the first 35,000 of the additions materializing during the 2013 winter tourist season.

“Rouge has advised that they are now looking at adding Vancouver and Calgary into Montego Bay for the winter in 2014 and 2015. We are confident that the addition of this innovative new vacation airline will bolster our efforts to boost arrivals out of Canada, which is now our second biggest source market,” he said.

Dr. McNeill said Jamaica has been able to successfully diversify the source markets, and pointed out that while we still maintain a “clear-eyed focus” on the traditional markets of the United States, Canada, and Western Europe, “we have successfully reached into Latin America and the Eastern European markets.”

“In fact, the growth out of Latin America has been very encouraging. This is due, in large part, to our partnership with Copa Airlines. Copa has an extensive network in this region and Panama serves as its hub. Last year…we were getting four flights per week from Latin America through Copa, and this has now been doubled to eight flights per week as of December last year,” he noted.

“We have also agreed on a range of marketing initiatives to cover several Latin American countries and going forward, we intend to increase these initiatives in what we see as a market with great potential,” he told the House.

Dr. McNeill said Jamaica has also started to make “real headway” in the Eastern European markets, and singled out Russia, which he said yielded some 5,550 visitors to the island between January and the first week of June.

The Minister said the inauguration of direct service between Russia’s capital, Moscow, and Jamaica during the 2012/13 winter season by Russian airline, Transearo, marked a “tremendous achievement” for the country.

“Of note, we also had flights out of the Czech Republic, and starting this November, we will begin two flights out of Stockholm, Sweden. These are potentially rich source markets for Jamaica and making such an impactful entry will significantly contribute to our goal of diversification towards sustainable growth in the sector,” Dr. McNeill said.

Contact: Douglas McIntosh