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Jamaica turns to South American tourist market

(Jamaica Observer) Jamaica is set to welcome thousands of South American visitors this winter tourist season, as a result of a deal now being finalised with some airlines offering direct flights out of Brazil, Colombia, Chile and Ecuador into Montego Bay.

The announcement was made by Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett who recently returned from an extensive marketing programme in that region.

According to Bartlett, Jamaica is expecting about 12,000 seats out of South America for this winter season, which begins on December 15 and goes through to April.

“…That of course will more than double the current arrivals for us out of South America,” Bartlett told journalists at a press conference held at the Ministry of Tourism in Kingston yesterday.

Bartlett said it is hoped that following further discussions, Argentina and Peru will join the group by this winter, making Jamaica fully connected to the South American market for the first time.

The tourism minister said arrangements were far advanced for the airline Gol to begin flying from Brazil to Jamaica by November or December of this year.

“The critical importance of that arrangement was the partnership we were able to forge with one of the largest tour operators in Americas — CVC,” Bartlett explained further.

The CVC, he said, has some 651 outlets throughout Brazil which gives Jamaica an immediate reach to every area of that country.

He explained further that the key value of the South American market is that “their winter is our summer”. This, he added, will bring well-needed business during the shoulder months — September, October and November.

In addition to Brazil, an arrangement has been forged with Principales Air Lines (PAL) to operate direct flights out of Chile into Montego Bay and PRL Colombia SAS which will operate chartered flights out of Bogota and Medellin in Colombia directly into Montego Bay.

As for the arrangement with Colombia, Bartlett said flights from that country will begin by this September.

“So between September and November we will be having new and exciting airlifts out of South America into Jamaica,” he added.

He noted that the loose ends to be tied up include tour operators coming to Jamaica in July to meet with hoteliers and local ground transportation among other stakeholders.

Meanwhile, Bartlett noted that the airlift connections to these new markets are a key area of cost, either by arrangements directly with airlines for seat support or marketing behind the gateways and as such these are cost Jamaica will have to deal with.

But Bartlett was unable to say just now how much Jamaica will have to fork out for the arrangements with these new South American airlines.

He said it would cost somewhere between US$3 million to US$5 million to start a new market and these resources have to be found.

Director of Tourism John Lynch, at the same time, said Jamaica is in discussions with Copa to provide flights into Montego Bay, starting next June.

This, he said, will further open up the Spanish market, given that Copa’s hub is in Panama.

“You can fly from Argentina to Brazil so this money isn’t wasted on one flight but will open up a whole different ways you can get there,” Lynch said.

It is against this background, Bartlett noted, which makes it necessary for the $10 increase to the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) travel tax, which he said is necessary to create a pool of fund dedicated to marketing of the destination.
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