Jamaica attracting more Russian tourists, says Seiveright

MONTEGO BAY, St James — As the country’s stopover arrivals continue to grow, the Ministry of Tourism is reporting that the number of Russian tourists has more than tripled in the first half of this year, compared to the same period in 2018.

At the end of August stopover visitor arrivals reached 1.87 million or a 9.15 per cent increase over the same period last year, earning the economy US$2.39 billion in revenue.

“Just under 3,000 Russian tourists visited the island between January and the end of June this year, compared to roughly 630 for the same period last year. Much of this is attributable to new, regular non-stop flights between Moscow, Russia and Montego Bay by PegasTouristik/Nordwind, which commenced service on October 26 last year,” Delano Seiveright, senior advisor and strategist at the Ministry of Tourism, said Monday night.

Seiveright was speaking to the Observer at the official opening ceremony of the Jamaica Product Exchange (JAPEX), the tourism industry’s major trade show staged by the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association and the Jamaica Tourist Board at Montego Bay Convention Centre.

Tourism Minister Ed Bartlett, who is presently attending the 23rd Session of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation General Assembly in Saint Petersburg, Russia, is also slated to meet with a number of Russian and European tourism stakeholders.

In a message from Bartlett, read at the JAPEX opening ceremony by Godfrey Dyer, chairman of the Tourism Enhancement Fund, the tourism minister stated that Russian carrier Pegasus Airline, which currently provides flights to Jamaica using 747 aircraft, will be utilising bigger jets, which will increase the number of passengers travelling to Montego Bay to 500 per trip.

Highlighting the importance of joined-up Government, Seiveright noted that the Russian tourist growth push is also attributable to actions on the foreign affairs front.

“In September last year the governments of Jamaica and Russia signed a reciprocal agreement to waive the visa requirement for travel to their respective countries. The agreement allows Jamaicans and Russians to spend up to 90 days per year for tourism, cultural exchange or business purposes,” Seiveright reiterated.

He said that Jamaica’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Kamina Johnson Smith signed the agreement with the Russian Federation Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov on the the margins of the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

“This was a major step in the right direction,” Seiveright noted.

Last year Jamaica welcomed 3,156 Russian tourists, up from 940 in 2016 and 1,018 in 2017. According to Russian Government statistics, 15 million of its citizens travelled overseas for tourism purposes, with the bulk of them visiting countries bordering Russia in Europe and Asia.

“We have full planes from Moscow. This year Pegas/Nordwind have increased their seat configuration to accommodate 100 more passengers and there is a strong interest from a major Russian tour operator to put on a very large plane with over 400 seats,” Seiveright said.

“The Ministry of Tourism and the Jamaica Tourist Board have also further cemented relations with relevant stakeholders, including PegasTouristik/Nordwind to further promote Jamaica in Russia, resulting in many more positives,” he added.

This year JAPEX has welcomed buyers from the traditional markets of USA, Canada, England, and Germany, as well as India, Luxembourg, Mexico, Panama, Peru and Spain.

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