MONTEGO BAY, St James - THE tourism industry got a big boost on New Year's Day with the arrival of 320 Russians on board the inaugural Transearo Airlines flight from Moscow, Russia, which landed at the Sangster International Airport in the resort city of Montego Bay.
An elated Minister of Tourism and Entertainment Dr Wykeham McNeill argued that the hosting of the Russian visitors will be a precursor to tourist arrivals from other Eastern European markets.
"I believe Jamaica will begin to see far more markets in Eastern Europe opening up as a result of this partnership, which I am confident will prove to be a very successful venture. I am convinced that our Russian visitors will find Jamaica to be a very exciting destination," Dr McNeill expressed during Monday's official welcome ceremony at the Sangster International Airport, adding that the flight demonstrates "the result of yet another success story for Jamaica's tourism in reaching new frontiers".
He was also equally optimistic that tourism earnings from the Russian visitors will be significant as they stay over for a minimum of 10 nights, which is "twice the average stay of visitors from traditional markets such as the US".
According to Dr McNeill, the charter flights which is a collaborative venture between Transearo Airlines, using a using a Boeing 777 aircraft, with a seating capacity of 300 passengers; and tour operator Biblio Globus, is expected to run for three months initially, with discussions for them to continue into the summer and throughout the entire year.
Meanwhile, Audrey Dryakin, head of the Russian Embassy Consular Section in Jamaica, expressed hope that the new flight from Russia to the destination will improve relations between the two countries.
"On behalf of the Russian ambassador, Vladimir Polenov, the Russian citizens living in Jamaica I would like to say that the first direct charter flight of Transearo to Jamaica is a tremendous contribution to the bilateral relations of our country and I hope that this will not only help to improve the Jamaican tourism, but also be a great contribution to the cultural and economical relations of our countries," Dryakin remarked.
Transaero flies to 40 countries on 130 routes and has hubs in Moscow, St Petersburg and Yekaterinburg. They operate flights between Moscow and Belorussia, Ukraine and Uzbekistan and operate flights out of other countries such as Austria, Cyprus and Greece.