Sat | May 26, 2018

‘Game changer’ - Copa to increase flights to Jamaica

Published:Sunday | April 22, 2018 | 12:00 AMJanet Silvera
Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett

One of Latin America's largest airlines, Copa, will increase its daily service between Panama City and Montego Bay as of July, bringing to 11, the total number of flights weekly between Jamaica and Panama.

Currently, Copa operates eight flights into the island - four into Montego Bay, St James, and four into Kingston - weekly.

With the increase in the number of flights, Jamaica will see approximately 960 additional airline seats per week and more access to robust Latin American markets, including Chile and Argentina.

An elated tourism minister, Edmund Bartlett, last Friday told The Sunday Gleaner that the move to daily service between Panama City, Copa's major hub, and the tourism capital, Montego Bay, will make it easier for tourists visiting from several nations.

"Now they can, any day of the week, hop on a flight in Buenos Aires (Argentina's capital) or Santiago (Chile's capital) and connect seamlessly via Panama City and be in Jamaica for quality vacation time. This is a game changer that will lift arrival numbers from this important part of South America," said Bartlett.

His comments came days after making the announcement to large audiences of travel media, tour operators, airline executives, and travel agents at Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB)-organised receptions in Buenos Aires and Santiago.

The JTB is leading a swing across South America, which also includes stops in Peru and Colombia. The team has met, or will meet, with the leadership of Latin America's largest airlines, including LATAM and Avianca; the largest tour operators; leaders of travel-focused TV, radio, print, and online media; government officials; and influential travel agents.

According to Bartlett, his focus is on growing tourist traffic from Latin America, which recorded an over 16 per cent increase in stopover tourist arrivals last year.

Argentina and Chile account for the bulk of those numbers, with approximately 10,000 tourists visiting from both nations last year.

Director of Tourism Donovan White, who was quoted in a media release by the tourism ministry, also noted the importance of the added Copa service and pointed to the JTB's aggressive approach to achieving more growth from several Latin American markets, where a growing middle class and better airlift options are driving demand for leisure travel overseas.

Transporting 13 million passengers annually and serving more than 70 airports, Copa Airlines provides passenger and cargo services to countries in North, Central, and South America and the Caribbean.

Its hub is located at Tocumen International Airport in Panama City and offers more destinations and frequencies than any other hub in Latin America, leading the way as the most connected airport in the region.

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com