Last night’s (July 5) inaugural direct flight between the Swiss financial city, Zurich and Montego Bay, marks the introduction of a crucial airlift arrangement that has been hailed as a game-changer for Jamaica’s recovering tourism industry.
Minister of Tourism, Hon Edmund Bartlett declared the service “a game-changer in terms of boosting connectivity out of that section of Europe,” after welcoming Captain Patrick Ritter and crew of the Edelweiss Airline flight, which brought 99 passengers on its inaugural run. Underscoring its significance, the Minister said: “Now we’re seeing that the demand for Jamaica is more concentrated and that individual countries have the capacity to drive numbers sufficient to bring an aircraft non-stop into Montego Bay.”
The occasion was commemorated, with Minister Bartlett presenting gifts to Capt. Ritter who is renewing his acquaintance with Montego Bay. With memories of being here 15 years ago and having had a good time, for him returning is a “great pleasure.”
Zurich is one of the richest cities in Europe and Mr. Bartlett sees the interest in coming to Jamaica as “a big statement that Jamaica is not just seen as a vacation centre for the economy class but also for the well-heeled and the high net-worth demographic.” This he said was important as it generates more confidence in building back at a higher level “so that the resources that are to stay in Jamaica to help us to build the economy is assured.”
In welcoming the service, Director of Tourism, Donovan White said the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) has been working consistently to attract visitors, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. “We work very hard for the demand that we have created and we have spared no effort in the marketplace to ensure that Jamaica is positioned as one of the best destinations available to travellers who are ready to travel,” he expressed.
Mr. White said following the start of the pandemic last year, “Jamaica and the Tourist Board created more comment on the destination than we have ever created at any other time in our history and we did that deliberately because we needed to make sure that as we traverse the pandemic and come out of it, that we were in a position to present Jamaica in a way that would continue to drive that demand forward.”
Edelweiss is recognized as the leading Swiss leisure travel airline, with flights from Zurich to over 70 destinations.
Meanwhile, the Sangster International Airport is again buzzing with activity with the addition of several new flights into Jamaica.
Chief Executive Officer of MBJ Airports Ltd., Shane Munroe says tourism recovery is underway with operations at the airport moving from 30 percent in January to over 70 percent at the end of June, when compared to 2019 and “for the summer the prospect looks good mostly from the United States.” He added that some 80 percent of the airport’s workforce is back on the job.
He said June was a strong month with over 200,000 passengers arriving at the airport and a greater number is expected for July and August, the peak summer months, “and the outlook for the winter season is positive. Right now we don’t have the European flight coming in so when you add the flights from TUI, flights from Canada which are slowly coming back, the UK as well, certainly the recovery is well on its way.”