Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer
Hurricane Sandy's destruction of the Northeast United States could have a devastating effect on Jamaica's tourist industry.
The Northeast is Jamaica's largest source market. Forty per cent of the business that is generated by the country's tourism stakeholders comes from areas such as Boston, New York, Washington, and Philadelphia. And these are the areas that were being pounded by the hurricane yesterday.
"It is a situation that we are watching very closely, already some of our members are reporting that guests have not been able to travel to Jamaica," president of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), Evelyn Smith, told The Gleaner yesterday.
Smith said the greater concern is the damage that the storm will do to the economy of the Northeast.
"It's our most important source market, in comparison to the Midwest, South and West Coast, and in recent years the Philadelphia gateway has been doing very well. And the hurricane is cutting right through that area."
The JHTA president noted that it was way too early to say how the conditions would affect the upcoming winter tourist season.
From as early as Sunday afternoon, flights from New York to Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean were being cancelled as airlines such as JetBlue and Caribbean Airlines moved their aircraft to safer ground.
flight cancellations continue
Yesterday, the cancellations continued with Caribbean Airlines and JetBlue forced to cancel all flights from Norman Manley and the Sangster international airports, into the John F. Kennedy Airport in New York. Both US Airways flights to and from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Air Tran to and from Baltimore, Maryland, were also cancelled.
Expectations are that not all flights from Jamaica into the Northeast United States will resume today.
"It is essential that passengers check with their airline on the current status of their flight. While MBJ works hard to keep our website up-to-date, the information is subject to change very quickly," said Elizabeth Scotton, chief commercial officer at the Sangster International Airport.
It is not all bad news for the industry as calls made to a number of hotels revealed that those passengers who were scheduled to depart the island yesterday have had to remain here, injecting funds into the coffers of many of the island's resorts.
But the situation could turn as visitors who were expected to arrive in the island have been forced to cancel their trips.
In the meantime, the JHTA president said her thoughts and prayers went out to the many persons in the Northeast who were feeling the effects of Hurricane Sandy.
"Many of these people have been guests of ours," she said.