By Fernando Davis
MONTEGO BAY, St James:
Despite the depressing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, a local tourism official believes tourists still have not lost their appetite for travel.
Andrea Savizon, visitor relations manager at the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB), said last week that the island remains a premiere destination of choice and should have no problem maintaining its market share in the post COVID-era.
Savizon was speaking at the Sangster International Airport on November 22, following the arrival of two JetBlue direct flights from out of Raleigh, North Carolina and Newark, New Jersey, both in the United States.
“Jamaica is both strategically placed and so amazingly well advanced in its health and safety guidelines that once this pandemic is over… we should have no problem maintaining our competitive advantage,” she said.
“You can see from these two flights that came in today that persons are still excited about traveling… and Jamaica remains a popular choice. The appetite for traveling remains strong, very strong. That is the signal we are getting from the market.”
EARLIER THAN EXPECTED RECOVERY
Savizon said Jamaica’s main source market, the United States, could be on the verge of an earlier than expected recovery following the good news last week that at least three potential anti-coronavirus vaccines could soon be in circulation. She added that a return to normality might not be as far away as previously thought.
Biotechnology firm Moderna on November 16 announced that its experimental vaccine against COVID-19 is 94.5 per cent effective, marking a second major breakthrough in the vaccine hunt.
Both Moderna and US pharmaceutical comany Pfizer have requested emergency use authorisation in the United States, meaning the first vaccinations of Americans could get under way before the end of the year.
Moderna released early results from a clinical trial with more than 30,000 participants after Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech, earlier said their vaccine was 90 per cent effective.
Moderna expects to have at least 10 million doses ready to ship in the US by the end of the year.
Said Savizon: “The United States market is yearning to travel… they are going to travel. The signals from that market… even with COVID and all…have been very encouraging. We just have to continue to be prepared and to do all that we can to keep Jamaica safe and secure.”
Savizon further argued that the island’s self-styled resilient corridors should be given much of the credit for how well it has been operating, noting that there has not been one known case of a tourist related coronavirus infection since the area was designated nearly seven months ago.
Savizon, in the meantime, noted that while projections in relation to arrivals and earnings will be predictably off in 2020 and beyond, the JTB remains active in the marketplace and “has been putting in a lot of work to keep Jamaica visible in the minds of visitors”.
“It has been tough for a lot of people. We have seen the struggles, we have seen the sacrifices. We however maintain a great relationship with all our airline partners and travel operators and believe strongly, as is evident by these two new JetBlue flights, that we are not that far away. Yes, things are looking up.”