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Thomas Cook Airlines dropping UK/Jamaica route

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Thomas Cook Airlines dropping UK/Jamaica route

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http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Tho ... aica-route

Thomas Cook Airlines dropping UK/Jamaica route
BY INGRID BROWN Senior staff reporter
Friday, February 11, 2011

THOMAS Cook Airlines, which operates chartered flights out of Europe into Jamaica, will be pulling its close to 7,000 seats to the island come next winter tourist season, Director of Tourism John Lynch has disclosed.

Lynch told journalists at a press briefing at the Ministry of Tourism offices in New Kingston yesterday that the airline has announced its intention to operate flights to the island up to this November, but not beyond.

“We just got a proposal from them half-an-hour ago where they indicated that they are having a problem selling seats for the winter of 2011/2012,” Lynch said.

He, however, did not divulge what the airline was proposing, as he said discussions were at the preliminary stage.

Although Thomas Cook’s subsidiary companies operate flights from Canada into the island, Lynch said the proposal only affects the UK route.

With the rebound of a number of domestic markets, some airlines have been complaining that it was no longer feasible to operate flights into the Caribbean.

Meanwhile, Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett said this proposal from Thomas Cook has to be taken seriously.

“With all the other challenges out of the UK such as the APD (Air Passenger Duty), we don’t want to add airlift issues to that,” Bartlett said.

The minister also announced that airlines, particularly those out of North America, are beginning to pull their flights from the Caribbean in favour of domestic routes which have begun to rebound.

“We are looking at the possibility of losing some 60,000 seats in the summer out of the United States — a market which is so important to us and that means we are going to have to act,” Bartlett said.

As such, the tourism minister said Jamaica will have to move swiftly to increase advertising and promotion support as well as develop partnership arrangements with some of these airlines to ensure that the routes are maintained.

This, he said, is even more necessary as Jamaica seeks to get visitors from emerging long-haul markets like Russia, Brazil and China.

“The investment required to begin to engage those markets is equally going to be challenging to us and so we need to find sure and secure ways of financing our airlift,” Bartlett said.

It is on this basis that Bartlett said he is giving active consideration to the recent recommendation by the board of the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) to double the US$10 head tax on visitors.

“That has led the TEF to make recommendations in regards to making a rate change to enable a more secure way for marketing, advertising and airlift,” he said.

According to Bartlett, a competitive analysis is being done of other regional destinations before the matter moves to the Cabinet.

A decision, he said, will be made by next month ahead of this year’s budget presentation in Parliament.

Meanwhile, Bartlett — who has been elected to sit on the executive council of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation — said he will be taking his seat at the first meeting to be held in Kenya this June.

He will have responsibilities for the Americas with emphasis on North America and the Caribbean.
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