Tourism Official Notes “Bolt Effect” On Visitors’ Upswing
San Francisco, CA -- (SBWIRE) -- 10/10/2012 -- Since the London Olympics, Jamaica has seen a sharp increase in visitors from the U.K..
Jamaican tourism minister Dr. Wykeham McNeill told the Jamaica Product Exchange (JAPEX), the island's annual travel trade exhibition that he knows why: Jamaica’s charismatic superstar sprinter, Usain Bolt, who won three gold medals in London, matching his performance at Beijing in 2008 by winning all the events he entered -- the 100 meters, 200 meters and 4-by-100 relay.
Travel from Britain to Jamaica was off in the first half of this year, Dr. McNeill acknowledged, but it has revived and grown since the Olympics. The U.K.’s Virgin Holidays reports advance bookings for next summer have risen by 8%, he noted. To capitalize on the renown of Bolt and other Jamaican stars like sprinters Yohan Blake and Asafa Powell, the tourism minister has created a new Sports Tourism Committee in a bid to lure U.K.-based sports clubs, schools and regional teams to Jamaica for coaching and sports-related tours.
Elizabeth Fox, the Jamaica Tourist Board’s regional director for the U.K. & Ireland, agrees Bolt’s electrifying Olympic victories account for the growing numbers of British visitors. She stated that bookings “have suddenly picked up. Bolt's success in the Olympics has completely reversed the trend." She notes that another Jamaican tour operator told her that its summer 2013 business has reversed from being off 18% before the Olympics to notching a 45% gain afterwards.
Responding to the growing demand, Virgin Atlantic will make its new third weekly flight from Gatwick to Montego Bay. The company starts next month with its year-round service. This, rather than limited to just the peak winter period as had originally been planned. Europe’s TUI Group also plans to add a second bimonthly charter flight next month.
Jamaican tourism industry attendees at the Ochos Rio event worried that the “Bolt effect” would be only temporary, or be undone by the high Air Passenger Duties the U.K. puts on Caribbean flights. To offset the APD, some large Jamaican hotels have lowered prices, and some tour operators in the U.K. are offering limited-term promotions to boost demand. Others in Jamaica’s tourism industry are targeting other markets in Europe (especially France and the Czech Republic) and in North and South America.
Canada has already climbed ahead of the U.K. as the second-largest source of tourists, but U.K. travelers are especially prized, since they tend to make longer visits and spend more freely. Unlike Canadian “snowbirds,” British visitors are also more likely to arrive during off-peak summer months.
Dr. McNeill told the Jamaican tourism gathering he still hopes to build support in the U.K. Parliament for lowering APD levies on flights to Jamaica. U.K. Chancellor George Osborne has rejected numerous requests to adopt lower rates for the Caribbean.
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