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Tourism minister highlights partnership with Southwest Airlines

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

ST JAMES, Jamaica (JIS) – Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett, says Jamaica shares an invaluable partnership with Southwest Airlines, which has the potential to make the island the Caribbean's leading destination.

Addressing a welcome reception on Sunday for Southwest Airline's inaugural non-stop flight from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, into Montego Bay, Bartlett said with Southwest having more gateways inside the United States than any other carrier, Jamaica stands to benefit tremendously as it relates to connectivity and airlifts.

“We welcome the thousands of additional seats and increased connectivity that will result from this new route from Fort Lauderdale, as we seek to achieve our goal of attracting five million visitors by 2021,” the minister told the gathering at the Sangster International Airport.

“At the same time, it marks the strengthening of the partnership between Jamaica and America's largest low-cost carrier, which began in July 2014 with Southwest's inaugural flight from Baltimore/Washington International Airport to Sangster International Airport,” he added.

Bartlett said the partnership with Southwest has been growing, noting that in addition to Fort Lauderdale, the airline has other flights from Houston, Baltimore and Orlando, into Jamaica.

“Southwest is synonymous with vision and innovativeness. It is these traits that enabled the airline to expand from its humble beginnings in 1971 as a small regional carrier serving the state of Texas into the largest carrier of domestic passengers in the USA,” the minister pointed out.

Bartlett noted that in less than three years of operation Southwest has become the fourth largest carrier to the island, bringing in 180,000 visitors in 2016.

“Today, Southwest's low-cost, better-service-quality model is copied by airlines the world over, and is an example of how small players can become industry leaders in the highly competitive travel and tourism industry,” he said.

The minister pointed out that the sector has been experiencing great success, raking in US$1 billion for the first four months of 2017 and a 6.5 per cent increase over the similar period last year.

“We had a total of 1,579,273 visitors between January and April overall – 795,193 stopover arrivals, while 784,080 were from cruise shipping,” he noted.

Bartlett said the numbers are the result of the enduring relationships Jamaica has forged with its tourism partners – airlines, hotels, cruise lines, tour operators, ground transportation and local stakeholders – “which are stimulating sustainable growth in the tourism sector”.

The inaugural Southwest Airlines flight from Fort Lauderdale into Montego Bay brought in 180 passengers.