What have been some recent major highlights for the board?
The market is obviously growing, and we have had a good year with an increasing number of visitors from the US. Moreover, we have some new markets, including Russia, reentering the market, and the new direct flight service out of Moscow starting in November is something we are looking forward to on a year-round basis. Similarly, there has been a lot of action in Eastern Europe, including an extra service out of Germany. Based on all these factors, the market is doing extremely well.
Can you tell us more about the increase in direct flights to France and South America?
At present, our main partner in South America is Copa, which operates direct Panama-Jamaica flights from its hub in Panama. Copa is currently operating 11 flights a week, connecting South and Latin America. The airport in Panama is one of the most efficient hubs in the world, and we are working closely with Copa to use it. They have already committed to a service from Lima, so we are targeting to serve the LATAM market in early 2019. This will prove to be a game changer; a lot of business depends on American Airlines' route through Miami, which a lot of people do not want to use because of high visa costs and overcrowding. On the other hand, France is another work in progress, and we are talking to some people for a direct non-stop flight. The two countries signed an agreement that will make it a lot easier to operate between France and Jamaica. The French market has been doing extremely well through transit routes, but will do even better once the direct service between Paris and Montego goes live by the winter of 2020.
How has Grupo Aeroportuario del Pacífico done managing the airport at Kingston?
It has done an excellent job at Montego Bay, which keeps improving. Having the private sector manage the airport is a big advantage as it attracts private investment and improve the overall service. Moving forward, the Kingston airport can service Ocho Rios. Other than that, the new highway built in Port Antonio has new possibilities for massive development. There are some unexplored beaches there, which means it can be the next frontier.
How will you strengthen the Jamaican brand in the Caribbean and wider Americas?
You have to be in the face of the consumer the entire time; part of Jamaica's tourist board strategy is advertising, and travel agents are still a key ingredient of our marketing strategy. We make sure that travel agents have up-to-date information so that customers know what Jamaica has to offer. In that regard, new forms of media are doing a remarkable job in showcasing the country's many wonders.
How important are PPPs in developing the tourist sector in Jamaica?
They are essential to the point that any country's tourist sector would sink without them. In that sense, we work closely with the Hotel Association, which is the main voice of the private sector. In fact, we recently finished the Jamaica Product Exchange at the convention center, where buyers from all the markets in Latin America had a large attendance; almost 30 buyers have direct contracts with the hotels. Moreover, in January 2019 we are planning to hold the Caribbean Marketplace at the convention center.
What are your targets and goals for 2019?
We want to grow between 5-8% every year and are planning to record USD5 billion in earnings on the back of 5 million visitors in 2020. Our revenue is growing faster than the number of visitors, which means tourists are spending more.