Tue | Dec 12, 2017

Copa execs flying high at Sandals travel agent tournament

Published:Saturday | October 7, 2017 | 12:00 AMAinsley Walters
The Copa Airlines team pose on the 18th hole at Sandals Golf and Country Club in Upton, St Ann, on yesterday's first day of the fifth Latin American Travel Agents Golf Tournament. From left, Bruno Chaquio, coordinator, corporate account; Edwin Vega, coordinator, revenue management; Yon Jayo, market intelligence director, and Ricardo Aleman, distribution manager.

LUIS Fonsi's 'Despacito', English translation, 'Slowly', may be the summer's hottest song but the Latin American visitor arrivals to Sandals Jamaica, courtesy of Copa Airlines, have been nothing but slow. In fact, according to Bruno Chaquio, the airline's coordinator, corporate account, Copa's Jamaican market has been growing at a rate of eight per cent, year-on-year, rivalling the Caribbean region's biggest destination, Canc?n, Mexico.

Playing as Team 6 at Sandals' fifth Latin American Travel Agents Golf Tournament at the Sandals Golf and Country Club in Upton, St Ann, Chaquio and his three teammates, all Copa Airlines executives, were having so much fun, bottles of beer from co-sponsor Red Stripe quite evident on their golf carts, that they had the caddies and superintendents wondering if they would ever get off the 18-hole course.

However, the Copa executives' compliments for the caddies and Sandals' overall service, though out of earshot, would have made them wait all day on Team 6, which, by the way, held a first-day lead of 32 after nine holes, a three-stroke lead over their nearest rivals.

Though having fun on their first trip to Jamaica, the Copa executives confirmed what Sandals' Silvio Paez, director of sales, Latin America, and Arlenes Garcia, sales manager, Latin America, said about the airline's role in expanding the resort's Latin American market.

"Copa had four flights weekly to Jamaica, two to Kingston and two to Montego Bay. However, for about the last five years it has moved to four, either way, eight flights per week," Paez explained. "The importance of this is that only travellers from one Latin American country, Chile, can enter the United States without a visa to connect in Miami. With Copa having a big hub in Panama and increasing their flights to Jamaica, it is easier for travellers to fly directly to Jamaica from Panama," he added.

As a result, Sandals' Chairman Gordon 'Butch' Stewart, Paez said, moved quickly to ensure the Jamaican chain launched a TV ad campaign to target Latin America, via CNN Spanish, CNN International and CNN Mexico.

Golf, Paez said, is a fun way of having Latin American Travel Agents and co-sponsor Copa Airlines on board, playing among 19 teams of four players each, 76 players from a party of approximately 100, which the airline flew into Jamaica at reduced rates.

"Those who are not playing came to see the destination and attractions elsewhere in the country. They have been to Negril and Montego Bay to visit the other resorts. This is more than a golf tournament. It is a fun trip to see what Jamaica has to offer as a destination to showcase Jamaica and Sandals," Paez pointed out.