Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer
ANTICIPATING A groundbreaking 2013, Jamaica's Tourism and Entertainment Minister Dr Wykeham McNeill has said the island has already secured approximately 1.1 million seats for the winter tourist season, which begins tomorrow.
Holding his stance, the optimistic minister has released preliminary figures indicating that, between January and November, Jamaica welcomed approximately 1.7 million stopover visitors, an increase of 2.4 per cent over the same period last year.
Dr McNeill was speaking at the launch of the annual Tourism Week during a church service at the historic parish church in Falmouth, Trelawny, last Sunday.
He was as upbeat about cruise ship arrivals, which he said rose by 26.6 per cent between January and October 2012.
The tourism minister highlighted this year's theme, 'Tourism For All, All For Tourism', positing that, up to October, Jamaica earned approximately US$1.7 billion from the industry, representing a 3.2 per cent over the US$1.6 billion, the country earned the same period last year.
"Every Jamaican should be proud of the achievements of our unique destination. I want to implore everyone, whether you work in tourism or not, to consider what each of us can do to enhance Jamaica's tourism product; a product that attracts millions of visitors here annually," Dr McNeill stated.
Tourism Awareness Week
The observation of Tourism Awareness Week also coincides with the start of the winter tourist season.
"We have exciting news to share for the season. We've made great strides in diversifying our markets and, in this regard, have started to have much success in securing new airlift for Jamaica as we target new markets while maintaining our seat capacities," he told the church.
He added that, for the winter, Jamaica would welcome an inaugural non-stop flight from Moscow, Russia, starting on January 1, 2013 into Montego Bay.
Flights have also been confirmed from the Czech Republic, starting December 28. In addition, there will also be non-stop service from Paris, France.
Coming out of the UK, he said, another flight had been secured from Gatwick, London, starting in May 2013, while British Airways will maintain its three flights to Kingston, and Virgin Atlantic Airways its three flights to Montego Bay.
Excited about the prospects in Latin America, the tourism and entertainment minister announced that COPA Airlines was doubling their service from four to eight weekly flights, commencing this winter as well.