Tourism official says Jamaica on target despite cancellations

officials say the six or seven per cent of flights into Montego Bay from the US and Canada which were cancelled since Saturday due to adverse weather conditions affecting North America has had no significant impact on anticipated arrival numbers or projections for the 2022/2023 winter season.

Senior advisor and strategist for the tourism ministry Delano Seiveright told the Jamaica Observer on Tuesday that there were between three and five flight cancellations per day, impacting about 1,000 passengers daily. However, he stressed that “this has to be juxtaposed with the fact that you have about 50 plus and on some days as many as 60 flights per day, so the impact isn’t devastating, disrupting but not devastating. We are still on target”.

Projections are that close to 1.5 million visitors — 950,000 stopovers and 524,000 cruise visitors — will come to the island during the winter tourist season, which started on December 15, making it the largest number of tourists in the country’s history.

Seiveright explained that there were not many flights scheduled from the specific areas that were affected by the winter storms. “The issue is really what happens at the back end, so [people] flying from Buffalo, New York, would obviously have their flight cancelled, but we have no non-stop flights between Buffalo and Jamaica. So it’s difficult to say how many persons were impacted from originating cities, where the storm was the worst. What we did have is people missing their flights because they can’t get to their originating airports and end up missing their connecting flights and so on, but things are pretty much back to normal now,” he said.

Preliminary airport arrival figures for Sangster International Airport showed that between December 1 and 26 there were 172,527 tourists, out of a total of 198,809 passengers.

At the start of the winter tourism season, Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett said Jamaica expected US$1.4 billion in earnings for the 2022/2023 winter tourist season as foreign exchange inflows remain on a growth trajectory for the first quarter of next year and is based on 1.3 million air seats, which have been secured for the period, and the full recovery of cruise shipping.

Bartlett said the projected earnings is a 36 per cent increase over 2019, which would make 2023 the strongest winter earnings that Jamaica has ever had.

Compared to the 2021/2022 winter season, 2022/2023 winter period should see a close to 30 per cent increase in stopover arrivals: “Concurrently, with cruise last winter, Jamaica had 146,700 passengers and for this winter we are expecting a whopping 257 per cent increase.”

He added, “Last year we had 879,927 visitors and this winter we’re projecting 1.47 million visitors for the period, a massive 67.5 per cent increase.”

Cruise visitors declined last year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, pulling in only US$14 million, but a significant uptick is anticipated to bump earnings up to US$51.9 million this year.

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