Summer bounce for tourism amid inaugural Texas flight
Ending the winter with an impressive 800,000 stopover visitors, Jamaica’s tourism sector is expected to continue its buoyancy and surpass pre-COVID-19 arrivals by year end.
But the number of visitors is not the only reason for optimism. Revenue is.
“Revenue is pacing ahead of our arrival growth,” Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett told journalists during a welcome reception for American Airlines’ inaugural flight out of Austin, Texas, Saturday afternoon.
Preliminary data, the tourism minister said, indicate earnings of $1.2 billion to date, but those numbers are expected to be adjusted upwards, he said.
“The final figures are going to come later this month, but what is clear is that we are moving ahead in terms of our earnings, to the point where we are going to be just about $100 million shy of the $3.7 billion that we earned in 2019,” Bartlett disclosed.
The recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, whose restrictions strangled arrivals for 2020 and 2021, has been strong – a performance he attributed to the diversification of the market and a resilient demographic. He acknowledged, however, that the industry was not immune to shocks.
American’s new gateway into Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay will open the US southeast for Jamaica’s benefit. Currently, the island gets most of its visitors from the northeast.
American is the number one carrier, and on Saturday, 76 persons arrived on its Embraer 176 aircraft from Austin, prompting Bartlett to declare the official start to the summer.
In store are Jamaica’s 60th anniversary celebration of Independence, the 28th staging of Reggae Sumfest, and the World Free Zone Organisation’s Annual International Conference and Exhibition (AICE 2022) making its Jamaican debut on Monday, June 13, at the Montego Bay Convention Centre.
He pointed out that tourism has the capacity to drive income-generating activity in key areas of the economy such as agriculture, manufacturing, transportation, and small and medium-size enterprises.
Bartlett’s comments were bolstered by chief executive officer at MBJ Airports Limited, Shane Munroe, who said he was encouraged by the uptick in traffic.
“Last month we were at 99 per cent of where we were in 2019, and all airlines have indicated to us that that trend will continue into the summer,” Munroe said in a Gleaner interview.
“Our long-term plan, as well for the expansion of the airport, is to match the growth in passenger traffic not just on the arrival side, the departure side, and even on the land side, as well as into the public entrances to the airport,” Munroe added.
American Airlines is also excited about the addition of the new service in its 45th year of serving the destination. The airline’s managing director for Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean, Jose Maria Giraldo, was bullish about the future, including in Oracabessa, its third gateway to the island.
“These new flights will complement our robust Jamaican footprint, including up to 15 daily flights this summer,” the managing director said in a statement.