Thursday, October 22, 2009

Ripped from the Headlines - If You Never Go How Will You Know?

I woke up this morning thinking "Ok Tara...what will you blog on next?" Immediately I thought I'd blog about the whole man/woman relationship thing or another frustrating thing for me the ever increasing cost of electricity and why we live on an island & but we're not encouraged to use solar energy.....but I began to read The Gleaner online and voila....there it was 2 seperate articles that related to Tourism or the lack thereof.

Though I could be wrong I think it's safe to say that with the "loss" of bauxite, agriculture (sugar etc) and all other revenue drivers that Tourism is Jamaica's main source/contribute to foreign income (let's not talk about remittances). With an economy in shreds and the probability that the planting of yams, escallion and oranges or any other industry start-up would bear "immediate fruit" you would think the government would throw all they had behind Tourism.

I'm no expert by any means but logic would dictate that after welcoming the Spanish hoteliers w/open arms and erecting monstrocity after monostrocity along our shorelines and pumping obscene amounts of money into expanding our airports. We would then need to increase the traffic through our airports and fill these beds with least on a fairly regular basis. That's if we had planned earning any revenue from these "investments."

With this in mind how do you get the people here? Glossy ads? Flashy commercials? Tourism trade shows? e-banners on travel websites?

Hmmmmm....all sound like good ideas but we're in a competitive market. Plenty of other islands have gorgeous beaches and salty blue water...and yes...reggae. Live bands strumming Bob Marley tunes for days. That combined w/less crime, minimal harassment, sweet island charm & the offer of new/exciting things to do on their islands what makes Jamaica stand out other than the name?

With cost-conscious shoppers on the rise and our proximity to the US you would think that the powers that be would see them and US tourism as "low hanging fruit?" So why look to appeal to them and at the same time look to markets that had historically low/flat passenger numbers that have since experienced steady and consistent growth over the last few years and find out WHY? HOW?

Crazy thought huh? I know.....

Guess what's even crazier? The data already exists and is accessible through IATA/EU & even the World Bank did a study on Caribbean Aviation in 2006 and provided the same information to our government that I am about to share with you:


“The Caribbean region has an abnormally high density of international airports... the consequence is that the volume of services is low… most Caribbean airports have lower traffic volumes than the smallest US airports which are served by low cost carriers”.


350% growth in the South Pacific Islands, 300% growth the Far Eastern Pacific Islands, 230% growth in EU - “Low cost carriers have vastly expanded passenger numbers on routes with historically low and steady base figures”

Notice the common denominator? Low cost carriers (LCC) or Low Fares Airline (LFA)- yep the only entities that continue to fill up and generate more passengers during an economic crunch. We're the only region that hasn't taken advantage of that and we're the only reagion with stagnated travel growth.

Let me give you a few facts:

FACT: “Low cost carriers have vastly expanded passenger numbers on routes with historically low and steady base figures”.
FACT: US carrier’s fares to Caribbean destinations were US$71 to US$155 higher compared to similar domestic US routes.
FACT: Between 2004 and 2008 the only airlines to add new increases in capacity in the Caribbean were US low cost airlines.
FACT: We have approx 10,000 NEW beds in Jamaica to fill and 30,000 beds overall
FACT: Govt says we're going for a 70% occupancy rate (we hover around 67%)
FACT: Newly expanded airports only have about 1/2 of total capacity passing through them
FACT: Dublin Airports passenger traffic was 23.3M in 2007 in 2006 it was 21.1M and only a little over 10yrs before it was 5M.
FACT: Dublin's airport traffic has grown EVERY year w/an compund growth of 9.7% over the last 12yrs

So let's do some math:

10,000 new hotel beds @ 70% occupancy with avg stay of 7 nights per visitor = requirement for 437,500 tourists.

Each tourist needs 2 flights (return trip) = 875,000 seats
Airlines operate @ 70% LF (load factor) = therefore we would need 1.25m seats/yr

This requirement for 1.25m seats is just to fill the NEW beds built or being built in 2009/2010.

Staggering isn't it? So this begs the question: Where are we gonna get these seats/passengers? From paying American Airlines or code sharing with Virgin? Or maybe by continuing to cut routes and provide delayed/below standard service on our failing national carrier?


Here's what has transpired in JA in relation to Tourism since 2009

Minister of Tourism annouces the Govt's "Drive for Five" campaign - yep 5M visitors by 2012

Minister of Tourism strikes a US$4.5M dollars with American Airlines to bring passengers to Jamaica - yep AA & yep US$4.5M

Oh then guess what happens AA cuts costs & guess what that means JA will have to pay them becuase they aren't filling their seats at 75% load factor to JA

Air Jamaica "divestment" delayed again and again and again - yep shocker delayed AGAIN even w/a genius seconded from Grace to oversee this

Some insight into why divesment may be delayed - yep Sabotage from the inside

Our failing national airline's chairperson orders a flight on the runway to turn back - yep turn back to pick up a passenger

Govt appoints the John Lynch as Chariman of JTB & Director of Tourism - yep both roles (can we say conflict of interest?) & the ENTIRE JTB Board quits

Sandals Hotels lays off 650 staff - yep 650 people made "redundant" 285 between MoBay, Ochi & Negril

SuperClubs goes on a "hiring freeze" & begins rotation of staff - yep this is what they have to do in order not to layoff staff

One of the Mega hotels IberioStar closes its doors in Montego Bay sending home some 300+ staff -yep just opened & just one to fill the beds

The PM announces in his budget speech that he's formalising casino gambling - yep another great way to generate revenue according to Golding and then Harmony Cove suddenly jumps up and announces they'll add 6,000 more rooms at US$7B (but guess what they won't start until casino's are apprvd)

We've approved a $300 Million to finance an "international airport" in Boscobel which will cater mainly to private jets - yep private jets

We've spent approximately $52 Million from the TEF Tourism Enhancement Fund to fix roads in various communities, consultancy fees & refurbish a community ctr etc - yep all w/$ allocated for tourism

So as you can see a number of interesting developments took place....yet in none of these developments have I noticed a way to increase/improve/grow our passenger #'s. Have you? Maybe I missed it....What I see is a continuation of money wasting and attempts a putting bandaids on gaping wounds. Short term thinking means a long term loss...

What I did not put in this blog was that Airone has been requesting a license to start a low fare ailrine in Jamaica for 2 years - modeled after Ryan Air ( Airone's plan is to provide cheap fares (not gimmicks like others) on short-haul flights (4hrs or less) within the Caribbean, USA & Central/Sth America. They still await a formal response from the government as they say they cannot do so until Air Jamaica is divested.

I didn't bother not because I work for them but because I didn't want anyone to feel I wrote this blog on their behalf. I didn't, I wrote it out of my own sense of frustration. If I were writing w/that hat on I'd really layout some ish on the table that would send your head reeling - you'd never believe it.

So will allowing casino gambling save us? (it hasn't saved the bahamas) then maybe a $300M investment in a private jet airport will? If not US$4M marketing campaigns in the US might? or eeven paying AA to bring...oops not bring passeengers may be the golden ticket? Or I suppose we as taxpayers will continue to pump $200M+/year into Air Jamaica while our education system slips to a further low while the airline soars to a new height of f&%ry.

But if we don't hold our leaders accountable and continue to turn a blind eye, not demand of them what we deserve, earned and paid for then who will? They certainly don't govern do they?

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