Bartlett for air connectivity

Bartlett for air connectivity

Minister says tourism industry suffers greatly from the lack of air connectivity

Business reporter

Sunday, December 29, 2019

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Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett says for real Caribbean integration to be achieved, there will have to be passport interconnectivity to eliminate restrictions within the region.

In an interview with the Jamaica Observer, Bartlett indicated that even though Jamaica is a desirable destination within the Caribbean, the tourism industry suffers greatly from the lack of air connectivity.

“[Air connectivity] offers a good opportunity for multiple destination activities in the Caribbean space, but for Caribbean integration to be achieved, we're going to have to have a sort of rationalisation of the travel arrangements. This is something that we're hoping will emerge in time,” Bartlett told the Sunday Finance.

“The region tried during the [cricket] world cup to eliminate visas or to have a single visa that takes you into the Caribbean if you have a Caribbean passport. While there is a Caricom passport now — as useful as it is, it does not allow everybody to be able to transit between borders seamlessly, so we need to take a further step of eliminating visa requirements and that will enable free access,” he continued.

He further added that a consolidation of aviation services is pertinent to such initiative, which he believes that this “will change the game in terms of the accessibility of the Caribbean and the cost to come”.

According to the minister, Jamaica's tourism industry out-turned against its projection for the five-year growth targets.

“In terms of the 5 by 5 growth strategy, we are well ahead of the curve. We projected to grow at 5 per cent and we're growing at 9 per cent now. We projected to increase our revenue by a similar percentage and we're at 10.3 per cent so we're doubling our projection in terms of revenue and we're almost doubled in terms of arrivals,” Bartlett said.

The five-year growth targets, set in 2016, are aimed at attracting five million tourists, generating US $5 billion in earnings, and increasing total direct employment to 125,000.

The minister also congratulated Caribbean Airlines in their step to further attempt to strengthen air connectivity by launching a non-stop service between Kingston, Jamaica and Grand Cayman earlier in December. The service will operate twice weekly, every Tuesday and Saturday.

“Island states such as Jamaica rely heavily on air connectivity. The problem with us in the Caribbean is that we don't know each other, we're not connected enough with each other and because we lack that principle element of strong air connectivity. [This] inaugural flight to Cayman by Caribbean Airlines is expanding its range of connectivity and helping to sunder those dividing elements that prevents us from connecting and 300 additional seats to Jamaica with two rotations for the week will add significantly, even though it seems small, to the growing number of seats that are coming with other smaller airlines that are emerging within the region,” Bartlett stated at the maiden flight ribbon-cutting ceremony held at the Norman Manley International Airport.

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