With the traditional markets of the United States, Canada and Europe all showing growth, Jamaica could be looking at another outstanding year in tourism based on positive developments emerging from South America.
Tourism Minister, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, and a Jamaican delegation, which included Chief Strategist and Advisor, Delano Seiveright, recently returned from the continent in “high spirits” based on the outcome of several engagements in which they participated.
The Latin American market has long proven elusive for Jamaica. The consensus has always been that if the country could tap into what is regarded as one of the wealthiest tourism markets globally, then it would be nothing short of a bonanza.
Based on recent developments, there is every indication that the country’s fortunes are beginning to change.
“We had constructive meetings with the President of Argentina. We (also) had successful meetings with all the major tourism players in the region, as is evident by the number of deals we managed to pull off. We also made very successful treks into Colombia, Peru and Chile. I can safely say without any fear of contradiction that we have made that long anticipated breakthrough into the South American market,” the Minister says.
Among the notable developments are the inauguration of Argentinian airline Copa’s 11 weekly flights to Jamaica – seven into Montego Bay and four into Kingston, for which the Minister says there was a “great turnout” of tour operators and travel agents.
He further notes that Chilean airline, LATAM, will have three flights, while Avianca Colombia is slated to commence flying directly to Jamaica from Bogota, Colombia, four times weekly by March 2019, which will “complete the airlift security plan for the South American market”.
Mr. Bartlett says the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) will be aggressively using social media and other channels as promotional platforms for what he describes as a very lucrative but vastly untapped market.
“The move to (provide airlift) service between Panama City, Copa’s major hub, and Montego Bay, our tourist capital, will make it easier for tourists visiting from several nations, including Argentina and Chile, which are among our most robust Latin American markets,” he points out.
The Minister further notes that “tourists can, (on) any day of the week, hop on a flight in Buenos Aires (Argentina’s capital) or Santiago (Chile’s capital) and connect seamlessly via Panama City and be in Jamaica for quality vacation time. This is a game changer that will lift arrival numbers from this important part of South America”.
Latin American tourists are renowned “big spenders” who enjoy attractions, something that Mr. Bartlett says Jamaica “has in abundance”.
“Latin America is a very large market with a rapidly growing middle class keen on travelling the world. Already, we are seeing both strong interest and increased growth. Argentina and Chile specifically contributed approximately 10,000 visitors last year alone (and) with increasing airlift options and a more targeted programme of engagement by the JTB in this marketplace, I am confident that we will grow more significantly,” he adds.
Mr. Bartlett’s optimism sees him projecting a doubling in the number of Argentinean and Chilean tourists coming into Jamaica from a combined total of 10,000 to 20,000 by 2021.
“We have the perfect tourism product for this market. We have been working very hard to make inroads, and everything is now starting to fall into place,” he adds.
Noting that “persons travel to fulfil their passion”, Mr. Bartlett contends that “we have to be very sophisticated and thorough when we venture into these new markets”.
“There are also a set of young people who travel all over the world to participate in… city runs and other health activities. There are also persons with disabilities who simply want a place to go where they can relax and where people are nice and caring. These are new opportunities for us to build on our product,” he adds.
Mr. Bartlett maintains that “tourists usually have the innate desire to be pampered”, pointing out that “there is no place in the world that does it better than Jamaica”.
“We have an opportunity to go after these niche markets. We have to ensure that we get our message out there in an effective way so people can understand that Jamaica is the place to feel alright. If this is done right, there is no telling what our growing potential could be,” he emphasises.
By: Garwin Davis