Wed | Jun 3, 2020

Four nations cease flights to island

Published:Wednesday | March 11, 2020 | 12:26 AM
Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett addresses travel industry stakeholders at a meeting at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston on Tuesday. The meeting explored the effect of the novel coronavirus.
Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett addresses travel industry stakeholders at a meeting at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston on Tuesday. The meeting explored the effect of the novel coronavirus.

Four source nations in Europe have effectively suspended travel for their citizens to the island following clampdowns associated with the emergence of the novel coronavirus, Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett has said.

The countries include Italy, Spain, France and Germany.

“These are big markets, particularly Germany, and as we speak, there are 800 passengers from there en route to Jamaica,” said Bartlett about these major European markets at the close of a stakeholder meeting held at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston on Tuesday.

These travel restrictions arose from health issues emanating from source countries rather than Tuesday’s first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the island, Bartlett said.

Bartlett, who spoke to Radio Jamaica and The Gleaner following the closed-door meeting, indicated that currently only Neos Airlines out of Italy has halted service to the island initially until March 28. Bartlett said that the airline would return over that period to repatriate its citizens. The island will focus on being at the top of mind for travellers when travel resumes, Bartlett said.

On Tuesday, a number of sector leaders in tourism were tasked with monitoring various aspects of the impact on the sector. Later in the month, an assessment of the impact on the sector will be tabulated.

VISITOR DATA

Last year, visitors from these four source markets totalled 45,900 over 11 months of 2019. This accounted for fewer than 2.0 per cent of 2.4 million total stopover visitors to the island over that period, according to the latest data from the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB). On the positive side, travel from major source markets continues, which includes the United States, which accounts for two-thirds of Jamaica’s visitors by plane, Canada at 15 per cent, and the United Kingdom with 8.5 per cent.

“We were doing quite well in Europe, but public policy dictates that those markets are now closed. That will require some review, but we cannot give numbers at this time, but we can give an indication in the coming days in terms of dollar value,” he added.

Visitors from these source nations totalled 11,700 from Italy, 4,700 from Spain, 7,500 from France, and 22,000 from Germany between January and November 2019.

Tourism stakeholders will do a full-scale assessment of the industry, keeping close contact with international partners to update them with accurate information on the situation in Jamaica.

Bartlett philosophised mid-­sentence that it was in the nature of mankind to overcome such challenges.

“The day we cannot sustain ourselves, then some other being will take over this Earth,” he told The Gleaner. “So, we are satisfied that global disruptions have come and been dealt with by man. It is man’s job to protect our anthroposcene Earth. If we resile from it, then we will all be in oblivion and a new set of beings will inhabit the Earth.”

steven.jackson@gleanerjm.com