Suspension of flights to cost Jamaica hundreds of millions of dollars – Edmund Bartlett

Edmund Bartlett

Canada’s recent  decision to suspend flights to the Caribbean will cost Jamaica millions of  (US) dollars in lost earnings this winter, Edmund Bartlett, the country’s tourism minister, told The Caribbean Camera.

In an interview last week, Bartlett noted that Canada is Jamaica’s  second largest tourist market and ” we receive over 400,000  Canadian visitors each year and they contribute significantly to our foreign exchange generation.

“This winter we  were expecting a little over 200,000 Canadians and that would translate to a little under four hundred million dollars (US),”

“And the implications [of the suspension]  are beyond just the foreign exchange earnings.It’s  also about the jobs in the industry and the linkages that exist within the industry.

“And of course that affects a lot of other economic activities.

“So overall, we can see the impact [of the  flight suspension]  for the winter alone of pretty close to one billion dollars (US).”

On January 29 last, Prime Minister  Justin Trudeau had announced that the Canadian government and Canadian airlines had agreed to suspend flights to the Caribbean and Mexico.

Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing and Air Transat have cancalled air services to all Caribbean destinations and Mexico until April 30.

The services are suspended as Canada imposes stricter measures to stem the spread of new variants of the coronavirus.

Bartlett noted that the biggest impact of the flight suspension are on four destinations – Mexico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica.

“Mexico is on record as saying that the action has caused them to lose 782 million dollars (US),” he said.

“Cuba has  the largest share of  the Canadian market in  the  Caribbean. So they must be hurting too though they have not said much about the level of the hurt.”

“The Dominican  Republic which has a big Fall market for Canadians is also suffering.”

Three Toronto-baased organizations -The Jamaican Canadian Association, Jamaica Global Diaspora Council (Canada) and Canadian Jamaican Diaspora Christian Alliance –  have called on Prime Minister Trudeau to reconsider the recent decision to suspend flights to the Caribbean and Mexico.

“They said the cancellation of air services ” unfairly targets ” Jamaica, the [rest of the] Caribbean and Mexico ” and will significantly impact the vulnerable economies of developing countries who have already experienced massive job and revenue loss. ”

They also note that “Jamaica and other Caribbean countries have made significant investments and efforts to comply with all previous protocols to protect Canadians. Jamaica has been at the forefront of curbing the spread of COVID-19 by implementing mobile testing labs for outbound and inbound international travellers, and by implementing testing at their Sangster International Airport.

“Jamaica was also one of the first countries to close its borders at the onset of the pandemic to curb spread, keeping its numbers down while addressing international travel safety concerns.

” Therefore, this step of a targeted ban seems unjustified.”

Commenting on  the appeal by the Jamaican  organizations to Prime Minister Trudeau to reconsider the decision to suspend flights to Caribbean and Mexico, Barlett said every call that will help to alleviate the situation is ” a good call.” 

“And we welcome the call.”

The tourism minister also  had a message for Jamaicans in Canada,

“Stay healthy and safe and take the vaccine,” he said.