AA pledges to open door to more Americans for Curaçao
Zane Kirby, president and CEO of the American Society of Travel Advisors, also has good news for Curaçao. (Photos: Josep Wellington)

MANAGING director for American Airlines (AA) Latin America and Caribbean operations, Christine Valls brought just the kind of news the Government and people of Curaçao wanted to hear — that the airline would increase flights and open the door for more Americans to visit the Dutch-speaking island.

Curaçao Prime Minister Gilmar Pisas had been stressing the importance and hope that his island would attract more Americans to the country, and embraced the arrival of Sandals Royal Curaçao as a catalyst.

At the ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday, Valls announced that beginning this month, two daily Miami to Curaçao flights would be added to the end of the year, something her airline had not done since 2018.

Beginning this summer, AA will also double its seat capacity and operation to Curaçao, compared to 2021, Valls said, adding that she looked forward to collaborating with all the stakeholders to grow tourism in Curaçao and open the door for more tourists from the United States and the rest of the world.

Valls noted that AA currently serves all the islands where Sandals and Beaches have properties. Just last year alone it transported 1.2 million customers between those eight islands and the US.

“As the largest US carrier into the Caribbean and in Curaçao, our footprint extends to 35 destinations where we operate 147 daily flights on peak days… This November we will start service to Ocho Rios, our third destination in Jamaica,” Valls said.

She recalled that over 30 years ago, “two larger than life men — the late Gordon ”Butch“ Stewart and the then American Airlines Senior Vice-President Peter Delara — came together to form a partnership, a friendship and a commitment to the Caribbean.

“They had big dreams and a vision of sharing the Caribbean with the world. American would fly them in and Sandals would provide them a beautiful experience. Both companies grew throughout the years and have been key contributors to the tourism growth in the region.

“Today, Sandals Executive [Chairman] Adam Stewart and I have the privilege and the responsibility to continue what they both started,” said Valls.

Zane Kirby, president and CEO of the 18,000-strong American Society of Travel Advisors, congratulated the Sandals team for opening Sandals Royal Curaçao, “a Herculean task amidst the pandemic, supply chain problems and a European conflict”.

Kirby disclosed that Americans were travelling more than ever before. A generation ago there were 8.7 million active US passports, compared with 145 million in 2018. In 2012 there were 28 million American travellers overseas.

For its part, the Caribbean had grown by double digits in visitors because of its hospitality, and had stolen market share from other regions. He said more Americans wanted to travel now than those who wanted to buy luxury vehicles, because of the pandemic.

Kirby, declaring that the future was bright, assured Sandals: “We can’t wait to help you fill these rooms and make magical memories for our shared clients.”

American Airlines Latin America and Caribbean Managing Director Christine Valls bringing good news for Curaçao.

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