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JM | Sep 30, 2022

Soon come: Petr Bilek is bringing tourists from Czechia, Poland and Slovakia to Jamaica

Al Edwards

Al Edwards / Our Today

administrator

Jamaican tourism has staged a remarkable recovery, projecting around 3.0 million visitors this year. 

Already, this September has recorded 170,000 visitors,  the highest number on record for the month. In 2019, just before the pandemic, Jamaica had a fantastic year attracting 4.2 million visitors.

The aim is to open up the destination to new visitors and target them coming to Jamaica from eastern Europe thus not solely relying on the traditional markets of North America, Canada and the UK.

Many of the eastern European countries have exhibited robust economies with a generation eager to travel and get a flavour of the exotic.

The Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) recently hosted a travel expo at the Royalton Hotel in Negril where European tour operators could interact with players in the local industry and see the products on offer for
themselves.

Many of the operators were very favourable and see great potential for developing a Jamaican market for their respective companies.

Our Today caught up with Petr Bilek, who is the JTB representative for the Czech, Polish and Slovakian markets, to find out about the potential of these eastern European markets.

“Jamaica was largely unknown by these markets but it is now developing. The whole tourism industry there is growing and they recognise Jamaica as a new prominent destination for them to discover.

“There is now demand for exotic regions like the Caribbean on a whole,” said Bilek.

He added that the region he represents is developed with many of its citizens now seeking new tourism experiences. Many have gone to competing countries like the Dominican Republic as experienced
travellers and are now looking for new opportunities. According to him, this is where Jamaica comes in.

“Many travellers from the countries I represent are looking for unique experiences; luxury travel, adventure, niche. Jamaica presents a lot of those opportunities. The brand is known across the world,”
explained Bilek.

So how did the COVID pandemic affect Czechia, Poland and Slovakia?

Bilek says they were closed for two years which severely impacted their respective tourism industries. Nevertheless, the clients of the tour operators were willing to travel.

Our Today CEO Al Edwards shares lens time with Petr Bilek at a recent Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) travel expo at the Royalton Hotel in Negril. (OUR TODAY photo)

He continued: “So it was good that Jamaica decided to open earlier than many destinations because we literally had people waiting in a queue to get out to vacation. Our people love to travel and we were waiting in anticipation of travelling again.”

So how is the airlift from Bilek’s region? How does he get people to fly into Jamaica?

“Airlift is still a little tricky as far as direct connections are concerned. There are currently three options:

1. Fly through Frankfurt, Germany directly to Montego Bay (Condor/Lufthansa).

2. Another option is to fly to London and connect to a British Airways or Virgin Atlantic flight from Heathrow to Jamaica.

3. Get to Zurich and catch an Edelweiss flight to Jamaica.

“We are hoping that a direct connection will be established quite soon.  Thanks to a convention like this one in Negril, we think the demand will be great and the airline companies will see an opportunity to make direct connections from the countries I represent.”

How do you see the upcoming winter season?

“There will be increased demand from my countries From the discussions I have had with tour operators, it looks very encouraging. People want to spend the winter somewhere like Jamaica. My job is to
show my people opportunities in Jamaica they may not have been aware of,” said Bilek.

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