With new airlift arrangements in place, principally Russia, tourism officials say they expect higher numbers of visitors from Europe and cited Latin America as promising for the coming winter season.
However, Minister of Tourism and Entertainment Wykeham McNeill says that longer-term strategies may have to be pursued to build back momentum in the critical North American markets affected by recent storms.
The planned early start to marketing efforts in this area is expected to have some impact, but not enough. The US continues to be Jamaica’s main source market for visitors, with the Northeast being the source of more than 500,000 stopovers annually.
“There is no doubt that in the short and even medium term, Sandy’s impact on the northeast states could present challenges for us,” said McNeill last Thursday.
“In discussions with our team in the US and our partners, we have decided to adjust our advertising schedule for the US market. We will start advertising on November 26 to shore up our bookings in the US and will have a three-week advertising blitz that will take us into the period before Christmas.”
The minister said the US election would have already flattened arrival figures across the market, but that the storm compounded the main supplier market - the northeast. “We are now considering possible longer-term strategies that will help us regain momentum in North America and reinforce our efforts in Russia, Central Europe, and Scandinavia,” McNeill said.
THREE MONTHS SERVICE
New airlift has been secured out of Russia by Transaero, which begins three months of non-stop service from Moscow to Montego Bay using a Boeing 777 with 300 seats on January 1, 2013.
The flights are being organised by Russian tour operator Biblio Globus. Jamaica’s bet on Europe comes as its currency union, the Eurozone, falls back into recession - Russia is not a member of the European Union - notwithstanding that tourism business from the continent has been underperforming.
According to the Jamaica Tourist Board, for January to May 2012, arrivals from the European market declined by 6.9 per cent. Total stopover arrivals fell to 96,137, compared to 103,225 in 2011.
Northern Europe declined by 14.6 per cent - moving from 73,151 in 2011 to 62,502 in 2012 — and from central-east Europe by 8.2 per cent; however, arrivals from the southwestern region increased by 14.3 per cent.
Transaero is said to be the second-largest airline out of Russia, which flies to 40 countries on 130 routes and has hubs in Moscow, St Petersburg, and Yekaterinburg. The tourism ministry has also confirmed service out of the Czech Republic for this winter.
Exim Tours, which is owned by German tour operator Meir’s Velt Reisen, will operate a charter from Prague, starting December 28, 2012. The flight is to be shared with Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, with 100 seats designated for Jamaica.
“In support of this flight, we will also have 100 travel agents coming in from Europe for a week to tour the entire island in the last week of November,” McNeill said.
Jamaica is also expecting non-stop service out of Paris, which will be operated by French tour operator Look Voyages providing 350 seats. “Prior to this year, we shared this flight with the Dominican Republic.
However, it is now a direct flight to Jamaica, and we will benefit from the full complement of 350 seats, bringing 100 additional seats to Jamaica,” McNeill stated. Jamaica also hopes to tap tourists out of Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland.
“Following discussions with TUI, they have confirmed flights out of Scandinavia for winter 2013-2014, from Stockholm, Sweden, to Montego Bay using their new Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
This flight will provide potentially an additional 28,000 room nights on a fortnightly rotation,Ó the minister said. Thomas Cook Nordic has started a Jamaican programme commencing next month on the Condor flight via Frankfurt.
British Airlines will maintain its three flights to Kingston and Virgin Atlantic Airways its two flights to Montego Bay, with a third added on Friday, November 16, while TUI has laid on additional flights from Gatwick.
“The airlines are reporting record passenger loads out of the United Kingdom, which we have to attribute to the heightened presence of Jamaica and the outstanding performances of our athletes at the London Summer Olympics and Jamaica’s promotional efforts surrounding that event,” McNeill said.
Regarding Latin America, where business is up 57 per cent as of July 2012, the minister said the trend was expected to continue given plans by Copa Airlines to double its capacity to four flights per week using a larger aircraft starting in December.
“The flights will be out of Panama City, which is the major hub in Latin America. We have also been working assiduously to tap into the markets of Chile, Argentina, and Brazil through joint promotional activities with Copa,” McNeill said. email@example.com