Sat | Jun 15, 2019

Tourism ministry going after middle-class hemispheric travellers

Published:Wednesday | April 25, 2018 | 12:00 AMAvia Collinder
In this photo released April 22, 2018 by the Ministry of Tourism, Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett (left) offer Andres Tejeda and Ariel Stockl a free honeymoon in Jamaica after Tejeda proposed to Stockl at a restaurant in Santiago, Chile.

The Ministry of Tourism has been working on new airlift arrangements to move Jamaica towards a goal of 60,000 South American visitors annually by targeting middle-class travellers.

Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett met with senior executives of LATAM Airlines Group at their global headquarters in Santiago, Chile, to advance arrangements for non-stop flights between their hub at Lima International Airport in Peru and Montego Bay, Jamaica.

LATAM, formerly known as LAN Airlines SA, is the largest airline conglomerate in Latin America. Bartlett is hoping for weekly flights to begin within a year.

World Bank data indicate that in the past decade, the middle class in Latin America grew 50 per cent, and now represents 30 per cent of the population. More than 50 million people have worked their way up the social and income ladder during the period.

Jamaica's tourism ministry is hoping to tap into this upwardly mobile group, while noting that Argentina and Chile accounted for 10,000 of the 32,000 overall visitors from Latin America last year.

The effort to woo more travellers from comes amid a 16 per cent rise in tourist visits from Latin America to Jamaica in the past year.

Bartlett is also projecting a near doubling of the number of Latin American tourists visiting Jamaica by 2021 to approximately 60,000.

However, what the tourism ministry describes as limited cost effective and seamless air connectivity has been a hindrance to attracting more tourists from South America, hence its outreach to regional carriers.

On Sunday, April 22, Bartlett announced that starting July Copa Airlines would increase its service between Panama City and Montego Bay, bringing the overall number of flights weekly between both countries to 11.

He said the additional flights would make it easier for tourists visiting from several nations, including Argentina and Chile.

"With Copa Airlines increasing service into Montego Bay to a daily flight, coupled with their four flights a week into Kingston, LATAM's entry would increase to 14 the number of non-stop flights out of Latin America into Jamaica every week," Bartlett said in a statement issued by the ministry.

The ministry also hopes to broker a partnership with Avianca, described as the largest airline in Colombia and second largest in Latin America, which could further increase weekly flights out of South America.

Several resorts chains with operations in Jamaica were involved in the tourism ministry's South American jaunt last week, including Sandals, Moon Palace, Blue Diamond Resorts, and RIU.

avai.collinder@gleanerjm.com