By Andrea Braham
KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) -- Tourism and Entertainment Minister, Dr Wykeham McNeill, says airlift to Jamaica out of the United Kingdom is already starting to see the effects of the 'Bolt Bounce'.
The term was coined from the impact that the image of the ace Jamaican sprinter, Usain Bolt, is having on the market.
McNeill noted that subsequent to the exposure that brand Jamaica received during the London Olympics, the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) began an online advertising campaign in the UK market, featuring the sprinter.
Speaking at the annual general meeting of the Association of Jamaica Attractions on Saturday, McNeill said that the news coming out of London is that bookings to the island are trending up.
The minister said that, while tourist arrivals from the United States markets will be affected by the upcoming presidential elections, the industry is already starting to see a pick up from the UK market, which should soften the impact.
McNeill said he has been advised that TUI, Europe's leading travel agency, is reporting that bookings to Jamaica in recent weeks have been "impressive."
"Similarly, we are hearing that Thomas Cook (travel agency) is sold out for Summer 2012; and that Summer 2013 has gone from trading behind 18 percent to pacing 45 percent ahead in the last four weeks," he noted.
"Virgin Holidays say bookings for Jamaica is now trading up 8 percent, although it was previously pacing at 7 percent down," McNeill added.
The minister described the trend as "good news," noting that "when you implement a new tax, bookings normally drop off for a while." He was referring to the recent US$20 tax increase that has been implemented on the industry.
McNeill also pointed to the benefits of the recent Jamaica House activities in London. He said that Virgin has agreed to provide a year-round flight, which will provide some 25,000 new seats to the island. This is significantly more than the original 17,000 seats that were being sought, prior to the London games and Jamaica House discussions.
He noted too that TUI has finalised an extra fortnightly flight for the winter to Montego Bay and weekly flights in the summer from Gatwick, Manchester and Birmingham in the UK. This will add 11,000 new seats.