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No Cuba threat - Bartlett says resumption of US commercial flights to Caribbean neighbour good for Ja

Published:Friday | June 10, 2016 | 12:00 AMAndre Poyser

Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett has welcomed news that six United States airlines have been granted permission to resume scheduled commercial air service from that country to Cuba for the first time in more than five decades.

Pointing to the principle of multi-destinational tourism, a concept he has championed even while in opposition, Bartlett argues that Jamaica's tourism product stands to benefit from an increase in flights to Cuba.

"We have absolutely nothing to fear. The more traffic that comes into the region is the greater prospect it is for the region to establish itself as a strong tourism destination that will build partnerships," he said.




According to Bartlett, the approval granted by the Department of Transportation for 155 round-trip flights per week to American Airlines, Frontier, jetBlue, Silver Airways, Southwest, and Sun Country airlines will ensure that a critical mass is established to drive more airline traffic to the Caribbean. This, he said, creates a win-win situation for Jamaica, especially as it regards multi-destination tourism.

"If we are going to be able to sell Jamaica and Cuba in one package, that marketing is universal, so each source market would be exposed to those packages. So if you are going to Jamaica, you can decide that you want Jamaica alone or you want Jamaica and Cuba, so the more flights coming into Jamaica, the more opportunities there are for double drops and for multiple-experience vacationing," he added.

Giving his reactions to approval for the resumption of US commercial flights to Cuba, Wykeham McNeill, opposition spokesperson on tourism, called for Jamaica to be prepared for the opening up of the United States (US) market to Cuba's tourism product, even while affirming the competitiveness of the Jamaican product.

"It is a good thing to happen because we must all compete on a level playing field because this blockade should have come down years ago; we have been fighting for it for years. The fact is that Jamaica is competitive, our tourism industry is world-class, and we have a bit of advantage with the US market because we are English-speaking, but it means we have to stay on top of our game and continue to do the work we are doing," he said.

There has been plenty of interest by Americans in visiting Cuba since relations between the two nations started to thaw in December 2014. Nearly 160,000 US leisure travellers flew to Cuba last year, along with hundreds of thousands of Cuban-Americans visiting family. It is expected that the commercial airlines will bring down the costs for travel to Cuba as some are expected to begin selling tickets as early as next week.