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New airlift to boost tourist arrivals

Published:Sunday | December 9, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) president, Evelyn Smith, expects tourist arrivals in 2012 to grow two per cent year on year, aided by new airlift which doubled arrivals from countries such as France and Colombia.

These new, smaller-market airlift agreements mitigated challenges in major source markets.

"But overall arrivals should be up 2.0 per cent," she told Sunday Business in an interview last Thursday.

Among the challenges facing tourism arrivals this year, include the weak economies of the United States and Europe, compounded with the recent disaster caused by Hurricane Sandy in the northeast of the United States, a key source market.

rapid rise in smaller markets

Smith's prediction is based on preliminary trend data for October and November, which are indicating growth.

Official data from the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) indicate that arrivals were up 2.5 per cent between January and August. Major markets of the United States were up 3.5 per cent, Canada up 7.7 per cent, but Europe was down 12.1 per cent over the corresponding period last year.

However, the slim growth hides the rapid rise in smaller markets including France from which arrivals was up 160 per cent to some 7,200, Colombia up 247 per cent to some 2,500, and Chile up 309 per cent to some 2,300 arrivals for the year to August, according to JTB statistics.

"There were new charters from France which account for the rise," said Smith. The additional arrivals from Colombia and Chile were attributable to service to Jamaica by the Latin America-based Copa Airlines, which earlier bumped up its flights. "Copa always flew to Kingston but this year they added flights out of Montego Bay," Smith said.

Concurrently, arrivals from China are trending to surpass Japan to become the top Asia market, but Smith said that those numbers are still too small.

However, the JHTA president reserved judgement on whether total expenditure would surpass the US$2 billion earned last year from tourist arrivals. Jamaica received about three million visitors last year.

Last month, the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) revealed statistics that the London Summer Olympics actually hurt visitor arrivals. Potential travellers, including non-resident Jamaicans, chose to remain in London instead of vacationing in Jamaican, it stated.