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No major fallout from Air Jamaica sale - Bartlett

Published:Thursday | February 25, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Nagra Plunkett, Assignment Coordinator


Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett yesterday sought to reassure members of the international business community that the fallout from the impending divestment of Air Jamaica is anticipated to be minimal.

"We have been taking steps to ensure that other United States (US) carriers are increasing their rotations to Jamaica," Bartlett said.

"The sale of Air Jamaica is not expected to leave existing gateways without service, as Caribbean Airlines will provide the necessary continuity."

The minister, who was addressing a Canada-Jamaica Business Council Luncheon and Table Top Mini Expo at Rose Hall Resort and Spa in Montego Bay, St James, said the cost of the national airline to the Government is unsustainable.

He said that financials as at the end of June 2009 showed an accumulated deficit of US$1.4 billion.

"Our objective is to ensure that there is adequate coverage of the gateways that are important to our tourism," Bartlett added. "We have been successful in attracting 12 new gateways during the past 12 months, and there is every indication that more carriers will be flying to Jamaica."

Bartlett credited the growth in Canadian visitors for the increase in arrivals to Jamaica. Statistics indicate that total stopovers from Canada increased by 22.9 per cent from 236,193 in 2008, to 290,307 last year.

While Jamaica and Canada have had long-standing business ties, Canadian High Commissioner to Jamaica Stephen C. Hallihan said his country was actively negotiating a bilateral trade and investment treaty with CARICOM.

"Our foreign policy currently identifies Afghanistan, the engagement of emerging nations, such as China and India, and our role in the Americas and the Caribbean as our three overarching priorities," Hallihan said in his remarks.

"In this regard, our engagement with CARICOM, as official government policy, is now focused on democratic governance, regional security and mutual prosperity."

One challenge

Hallihan said the second round of discussion between Canada and CARICOM would continue in September, following on negotiations that were held last November in Barbados.

"One challenge might be dealing with CARICOM's preference to have a development assistance component included in the treaty," he outlined.

"Another issue may be the reluctance of some states to accept Canada's proposal that side agreements be included on environmental security and labour rights that would require all parties to enforce commitments that have already been agreed to in international discussions."