Stranded Thomas Cook tourists depart Ja - JTB plans to woo agents to avoid fallout in market
The first batch of 333 Thomas Cook visitors left the island yesterday as the Jamaica Tourist Board plans to ramp up efforts this weekend to mitigate any decline in future tourist arrivals from the United Kingdom in the wake of the collapse of the tour operator.
Several of the island’s hoteliers were booked to attend the September 27-29 Jamaica Travel Market (JTM) in London before Thomas Cook, one of the oldest and largest tour operator companies, filed for bankruptcy, leaving some more than half a million international travellers stranded worldwide.
Several destination management companies remain uncertain about their future and forward bookings look gloomy in some of the countries affected by the collapse.
However, president of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), Omar Robinson, believes Jamaican tourist interests should push to strengthen relationships with the tour operators and airline partners who are booked to attend the JTB-hosted JTM and later at the World Travel Market in November.
“Opportune time to discuss how we can fill the void left behind,” he told The Gleaner as he also expressed concern not only for his members, but also for Thomas Cook, which has been around since 1841.
Unable to state the extent of the impact the fallout will have on Jamaica’s vibrant tourism market, Robinson said the goal was to secure bookings for the upcoming winter season and beyond. The season begins on December 15 and runs until April 30.
It is estimated that Thomas Cook was responsible for bringing in more than 14,000 visitors to Jamaica annually.
In fact, Jamaica was scheduled to have six Thomas Cook flights from the UK up to the end of October, and 10 flights from Stockholm, Sweden, for November and December, each flight carrying approximately 300 persons.
“As a gesture of goodwill, we are encouraging our members to honour the previously contracted Thomas Cook rates for future vacations in order to secure future bookings and mitigate the fallout,” Robinson said.
The Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing (ATOL) fund, which is paid for through industry levies, will cover the cost of the holiday and repatriation for those who were stranded.
Yesterday, the first group of 333 Thomas Cook passengers stranded in Jamaica were repatriated back to the UK via Virgin Atlantic from the Sangster International Airport.
“A number of repatriation flights will be operating between Jamaica and the UK for the next two weeks, however, in the meantime, all Thomas Cook tourists in Jamaica will continue to enjoy the country’s warm hospitality until it’s time for them to return home,” a statement from Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett said yesterday.
The release said that the tourism minister and his team have been in touch with the British High Commission, along with relevant local and international stakeholders, well ahead of the collapse.
Additionally, Bartlett was scheduled to meet with British High Commissioner Asif Ahmad yesterday at Jamaica House.