Jamaica planning to target European tourists

KINGSTON, Jamaica, March 28, 2008 – The Ministry of Tourism has started making moves to increase airlift to Jamaica, particularly out of the European market.

Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett said the government was pursuing initiatives to make the plan a reality, pointing out that increased airlift out of Europe would impact visitor arrivals significantly.

“Much of the deficiencies we have had out of Europe and elsewhere have been as a result of the inadequacy of airlifts from those areas,” he said.

Bartlett said the plan was to get “more air service agreements so that we can have the impact of open skies arrangements having its effects here in Jamaica in a very strong way”.

He said critical connections have been made with Air Berlin and Lufthansa to feed from most of the gateways across Europe into Jamaica.

“We are looking at three flights weekly from Madrid in Spain and two weekly from Portugal,” the minister indicated, adding that negotiations have also taken place for airlift services from Lisbon in Portugal via Florida to Montego Bay.

He said Portugal and Spain were the strong growth areas in Europe and they had impacted significantly on the overall visitor arrivals for 2007. He said they recorded 248 and 140 per cent increases respectively.

According to Mr Bartlett, discussions have also started with tour operators in Italy to increase airlift to correct the decline in arrivals from that country.

As far as the North American market is concerned, the Tourism Minister indicated that American Airlines had announced an additional flight out of Fort Lauderdale and was planning to soon introduce flights out of Dallas.

“We continue to work with Continental Air, Delta, and all the major airlines coming out of the North American gateway, so as to strengthen our airlift capacity and to ensure that we are able to bring the traffic here,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Tourism Minister announced the restructuring of Jamaica Vacations Limited (JAMVAC) and noted that the entity would be charged with the responsibility of maintaining the air link support which the country has and negotiating new airlift supports with other carriers.