UK visa application increase
Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer
Visa applications from Jamaicans wishing to visit the UK this year are up well over 30 per cent on the corresponding period last year, says the British High Commission.
This signifies a 20 per cent jump since April when the High Commission announced a 10 per cent spike in applications at a Gleaner Editors' Forum.
The High Commission processes in the region of 11,000 visa applications per year here in Jamaica. While not in a position to attribute the uptick to the 2012 Olympics, deputy high commissioner to Jamaica, Graham Glover, asserts that Jamaicans heeded their warning and are applying earlier than usual for their summer trip to Britain.
"Only a small proportion of applicants (under 10 per cent) have said directly that they have Olympic tickets and will be spectators at the Games, he revealed.
He explained that many more applicants have said they want to take in the surrounding atmosphere of the host nation at Games' time while visiting with their family and friends living in Britain.
"We are pleased to say that visa processing times are also still within our global target of over 90 per cent of applications decided within 15 working days."
According to the deputy high commissioner, his office is also well on track to ensure a smooth process of entry for Team Jamaica, with around 75 per cent of Jamaica's likely delegation already on the system.
Still encouraging applicants to apply now, no matter what date in the summer they plan to travel, Glover said the visas would be post-dated to the time of travel.
The carrier most used by Jamaicans travelling to the UK, British Airways (BA), is also reporting brisk business, but argues that summer is traditionally an active period.
"Summer is traditionally a busy travel time for British Airways between London and Jamaica, particularly as the visiting friends and relatives segment take advantage of school vacation time and warm weather both in London and in Jamaica," said Diane Corrie, commercial manager for the Caribbean at BA.
This year is a particularly busy time due to the London Olympics and while there are available seats on some flights, demand is extremely high on all three weekly flights from Kingston to London Gatwick," Corrie said.
She added that demand was especially high from Kingston to London around the period of the Olympic Games - end of July to mid-August -- but that the airline was also seeing high demand from London to Kingston towards the end of July into August due to activities surrounding Jamaica's 50th anniversary of Independence.
With all the zeal surrounding the summer and the Olympics, last Friday the airline launched a massive campaign aimed at bringing back ex-patriots to the UK for the summer.
"We are giving away 240 free flights to international travellers who have to be nominated by someone living in Britain," said Corrie.