Record number of visitors during holiday weekend
Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer
Jamaica broke all prior visitor arrival records this past Christmas weekend, despite the adverse weather conditions that forced the cancellation of several flights operating in northeast United States.
In the three days, December 24, 25 and 26, the tourism capital's Sangster International Airport welcomed some 20,000 passengers and, boasted Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett, "that number did not include Jamaican nationals".
Bartlett told The Gleaner yesterday that this unprecedented growth in visitor numbers is a 10.6 per cent increase over the same period last year and brings the total number of visitors since the December 15 start of the winter tourist season to 70,000.
He noted that figures from Kingston's Norman Manley International Airport had not yet been tallied.
"Ideally, these numbers are positioning the month of December to be the largest in the history the island's tourist industry," he noted
Bartlett said the numbers were huge and acknowledged that after the West Kingston unrest, "I thought we died (tourism) because two months after (May and June), we were down."
He said it was not until July that the numbers surged, and the island has maintained its growth since.
Bartlett noted that since the start of the season, the country has earned approximately US$65 million or approximately J$6.5 billion.
The country continues to get most of its visitors from northeast US, its most dominant source region, and the tourism minister credits the advantage in arrivals as a result of the airlift capacity.
"Airlift from the US to Jamaica has been coast to coast. Even when a few flights are cancelled, visitors can jump on an aircraft at any hub because of the large number of options."
His comments come even as the CMC yesterday reported that one of the region's largest carriers, American Airlines and American Eagle, would further shrink its presence in the Caribbean.
According to the CMC report, both carriers had announced they would be making more cuts to the company's San Juan operations with an additional five route cancellations from April 2011.
Four Caribbean destinations - Anguilla, La Romana, Port-of-Spain and Puerto Plata - are among the latest to be chopped from the airlines' schedule.
Bartlett, however, is not worried.
"American has put in extra seats into Jamaica," he said optimistically.
According to the tourism minister, "You don't grow because you do everything that everybody else is doing, you grow because you are doing different things and you are disrupting the market."