An additional 2,000 seats per week have been secured from a major legacy carrier in the United States to boost airlift to Jamaica.  Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett who made the announcement during the 47th annual general meeting of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) at the Half Moon Hotel on June 7, 2008 noted that the service which will commence November 1, 2008 will operate through to November 1, 2009.

At a time when the aviation industry is in turmoil, the Tourism Minister noted that airlines are now seeking countries with a critical mass that will support a load factor of 75 percent or more, which he believes Jamaica has the capacity.  According to Minister Bartlett, “we have to create an environment that will support direct flights and provide inducements for co-marketing arrangements and multi-destination strategies”.

The Tourism Minister also announced the commencement of direct flights from Russia late October to boost travel for the 2008/2009 winter tourist season. He also indicated that Jamaica has witnessed an increase in airlift out of Canada and Europe, in particular Italy and Spain.  According to Mr. Bartlett, there are strong possibilities for code sharing with airlines from Asia, and negotiations are underway to conclude several outstanding air service agreements, especially with Mexico, to facilitate another route for connecting to China.

Despite these and other challenges facing the industry, including the issue of crime, the Tourism Minister indicated that the success of Jamaica’s industry will depend on the partnership between the Ministry and the Jamaica Tourist Board working in conjunction with the JHTA and its allied members.

“To ensure the success of the new tourism, that places people at the centre, it is imperative that there is cooperation between the government and the private sector, working in tandem with the respective communities,” noted Bartlett.

In his address, Mr. Bartlett pointed out that Jamaica is now in a position to ensure a strong summer. The Minister cited the findings of a first-ever summer forecast for foreign travel by AAA which anticipated that 25.1 million Americans will be travelling internationally this summer, an increase of 2.6 percent over the 24.5 million who were estimated to have traveled overseas last summer.

According to the report, which was produced by Global Insights, American travelers will be spending $30.7 billion while travelling internationally during the months of June, July and August.  The report also points out that Americans spending overseas will increase by 5.7 percent, primarily due to inflation and the weakness of the U.S. dollar compared to several major currencies.

The Tourism Minister challenged the industry to go for their share of the market, given Jamaica’s proximity to the United States and despite the difficulties.  He told the meeting that given the various challenges, it is clear it can’t be business as usual, adding that our survival will depend on how we work together to meet the global demands of the rapidly changing global industry.