Winter flights to Jamaica increased – minister

By RON FANFAIR

There will be 69 flights each week between Canada and Jamaica this winter, a 20 per cent increase from last year’s total of 55.

Jamaica’s Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett made the announcement while in Canada last week to attend the World Routes Development forum in Vancouver and meet with local travel agents.

The winter schedule runs from January 1 to April 30, 2011.

“Canada is our number one growth market and the increase in airlifts is a strong statement of the growing confidence Canadians have in our destination,” Bartlett told Share while in Toronto last Friday night as a special guest at the fifth annual Helping Hands Jamaica Foundation (HHJF) charity ball at the Donalda Club. “Canada is the fastest growing market for us and Toronto is the largest market source for Jamaica.”

Bartlett predicts that 500,000 Canadians will be visiting Jamaica annually by 2015.

“When I became minister (in September 2007), we had 160,000 and that number has now risen to 300,000,” he said. “We have developed partners in the travel industry that have helped us create the energy to drive the arrivals and the Diaspora has promoted us through strong word of mouth. It’s really a confluence of key factors that have contributed to the surge.”

WestJet is offering seven increased non-stop flights from seven additional Canadian gateways – Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Regina and Montreal. The new routes are expected to offer a capacity of nearly 24,000 seats to Montego Bay this winter.

Sunwing and Signature Vacations are also providing winter travel to Jamaica from Moncton and New Brunswick.

Bartlett said the instability in some parts of Kingston, the Jamaican capital, a few months ago has not seriously affected the tourism sector which is the country’s largest foreign exchange earner.

“We lost about two per cent, but July was strong and the best month for us,” he said. “We were proactive and we used social media to our advantage to get the word out there that we were open for business. Social media gave us instant conversation and connectivity and allowed us to show off our product right away. We got out of the blocks early and that helped.”

Earlier this year, the world’s fastest man Usain Bolt agreed to be featured in a television advertising campaign to promote Jamaica’s tourism.

The first in a series of ads saw Bolt sprinting across the island – stopping to admire some of its famous landmarks – to the music of the late Bob Marley. In the second ad, Bolt sprints across the island again, this time getting faster as the music follows tempo. And in the third ad, Jamaicans are captured going about their daily lives emulating Bolt’s iconic victory pose.

The ads were however pulled in late May shortly after rioting broke out in some sections of Kingston.

“Usain is a very vital part of our ad promotion tool,” Bartlett said. “We have a good relationship with him and his team. Whether he’s working directly with us or not, it doesn’t change the fact that Jamaica continues to benefit from the brand name Usain Bolt because that name and Jamaica are synonymous.”

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