Direct flight from Toronto good news for tourism sector

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts & Nevis: The Robert L. Bradshaw International Airport has seen increased airlift in support of target markets in North America.

Delivering the 2012 Budget address in the National Assembly, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Dr. Denzil Douglas, said that, in April, Puerto-Rico-based American Eagle added two new weekend rotations between San Juan and St. Kitts further facilitating weekend getaways between St. Kitts and Puerto Rico and improving access to the west coast of the United States.

“Effective December 23, travel from Canada will be supported by a new service from Air Canada for the peak winter 2011/2012 travel season which ends in April 2012. This weekly flight will operate from Toronto on Fridays making it our only non-stop scheduled commercial flight from Canada,” said Dr. Douglas.

The Prime Minister said that, with the inclusion of this new flight, St. Kitts and Nevis has become a more viable winter destination choice for travelers from this key North American market and there is optimism that this new airlift arrangement could be further developed into a year-round service by 2013.

American Airlines, US Airways and Delta Airlines operate flights to St. Kitts from the U.S. British Airways also operates into St. Kitts from London-Gatwick.

Douglas said the same cannot be said for intra-regional travel where economic slowdown, high airfares, capacity reduction and other obstacles have continued to cause a serious fall off in Caribbean travel.

St. Kitts & Nevis, he said, continues to explore options to strengthen this market, adding that there have been ongoing discussions with the new airline, REDjet, for the inclusion of services to the country in its expanding regional operations.

He said that, in spite of the slowdown of the economic recovery in major source tourism markets, St. Kitts & Nevis remains cautiously optimistic about the outlook for the future of the tourism industry.

Douglas said although there was a 26.8 per cent contraction of the stay over sector in 2009, the sector recorded 3.3 per cent growth in 2010 and is projected to grow by 5.9 per cent this year.

“This significant turnaround of the country’s leading contributor to foreign exchange earnings was supported by increases in arrivals from the main source markets of the United States, the United Kingdom and Europe and the re-opening of the Four Seasons Resort,” said Douglas.

He said the investments made in support of the marketing strategy and direct airlift capacity continue to play an important role in the recovery of the sector and in laying a sound foundation for consolidating the full revitalization of the sector when external market conditions stabilize.

“At the same time, intensifying competition in the market place makes it imperative that we sharpen our focus on consistently offering a safe and secure visitor experience, convenient airlift and a more sophisticated tourism infrastructure.

“It is therefore imperative that we continue to employ a carefully targeted, cost-effective marketing strategy that is closely aligned to the authentic product offerings of our twin-island nation.”

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