US$10-m Fallout

Jamaica likely to lose revenue amid Thomas Cook collapse

BY HORACE HINES
Observer staff reporter
hinesh@jamaicaobserver.com`

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett has revealed that Jamaica is likely to lose about 8,000 visitors and US$10 million in revenue from the fallout triggered by the collapse of travel giant Thomas Cook.

The British travel firm declared bankruptcy yesterday.

Its sudden collapse, and that of its network of airlines and hotels, sowed chaos for hundreds of thousands of travellers and businesses around the world yesterday, leaving families stranded, honeymoons and vacations cancelled, and thousands of workers laid off.

Brought down by a variety of factors, including crushing debts and online competition, the 178-year-old travel company that helped pioneer the package tour ceased operating in the middle of the night. Its four airlines stopped carrying customers, and its 21,000 employees across 16 countries lost their jobs.

The company's failure rippled across the tourism industry worldwide, particularly around the Mediterranean, with many travellers uncertain how they would get home, hotels worried they wouldn't get paid, guests afraid they wouldn't be allowed to check out without settling their bills, and resorts hit with cancellations.

Overall, about 600,000 people were travelling with Thomas Cook as of Sunday, though it was unclear how many would be left stranded, as some regional subsidiaries have been in talks with local authorities to continue operating.

“The potential overall fallout would be somewhere in the region of 8,000 visitors, covering all of Europe and Canada. And, the potential loss in revenue would be about US$10 million,” Bartlett told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.

But, the tourism minister said he and his team will be aggressively moving to mitigate any repercussions from the collapse.

In fact, Bartlett stated that he will be leaving today for London, England, for the scheduled Jamaica Tourist Board's Travel Mart, which will take on additional significance of not only trying to ramp up visitor arrivals to the destination, but devising strategies to combat the effect from the fall of Thomas Cook consortium.

“We are taking proactive steps to deal with the situation. I am heading to London tomorrow (today)... and will be meeting with our partners and tour operators to mitigate the impact and, in fact, to establish the infrastructure for not just a reversal of that fallout, but to increase arrivals for the winter season,” Bartlett told the Observer.

President of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) Omar Robinson expressed concerns over the failure of the travel firm.

“Thomas Cook is one of our largest tour operators, and the UK is a significant market for us, and with Thomas Cook out of the market [that] is cause for concern,” Robinson stated.

“What we are doing now is actually reaching out to the members just to find out the level of exposure to see how much business they have projected, what is going to happen to the passengers who are here, how to try and get them home — which is now important — and then we will see how do we pick up the slack to ensure that there is not a major fallout as we get on to the winter season,” he said.

Bartlett, who yesterday met with British High Commissioner Asif Ahmad at Jamaica House, revealed plans to repatriate all customers left stranded as a result of the business shutting up shop.

“Note that all customers currently abroad with Thomas Cook who are booked to return to the UK over the next two weeks will be brought home as close as possible to their booked return date,” the UK Government has said.

With between 600 and 700 such customers stranded in Jamaica, Bartlett said: “Customers will be brought home to the UK on special free flights or booked on to another scheduled airline at no extra cost,” Bartlett said.

The tourism minister further noted that customers on a packaged holiday have UK ATOL protection — a fund paid for through industry levies — which will cover the cost of their holiday and repatriation.

“Flights will start operating from Monday (yesterday), with details of each flight to be posted on the dedicated website as soon as they are available,” he said.

So far, 311 of Thomas Cook's customers have left the island. They departed yesterday.


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