‘Huge impact’… Bartlett on closure of mega British tour company Thomas Cook

Jamaica’s Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett has indicated that the closure of British tour company Thomas Cook will negatively affect Jamaica’s tourism.

The mega tour operator collapsed on Sunday, leaving 150,000 passengers stranded worldwide.

Bartlett, who spoke with The Gleaner on the weekend, said Thomas Cook was responsible for bringing up to 14,000 passengers to Jamaica annually.

The tour operator also owns Condor airline which operates out of Germany into Jamaica and Signature out of Canada.

Condor has not been affected as yet by the bankruptcy.

“The impact on our tourism industry will be huge because they have long-staying guests averaging 14 days. When you multiply that, it is a couple hundred million dollars,” Bartlett stated while at the time expressing optimism that Thomas Cook would have received a bailout, possibly from the Chinese.

Virgin Atlantic is to repatriate Thomas Cook customers who were vacationing in Jamaica.

The airline will operate an extra section between the Sangster International Airport and London Gatwick.

The flight is scheduled to depart Jamaica at 4:50 p.m today says MBJ Airports Limited’s commercial business development manager, Sharon Hislop.

Thomas Cook’s problems started in 2010 during the ‘Ash Over Europe’ which occurred when a volcano erupted in Iceland causing thousands of flight disruptions over the European airspace.

It is the opinion of many stakeholders in travel and tourism that the operator never recovered from the catastrophe.

The Thomas Cook hotels here in Jamaica include Moon Palace, Couples, Bahia Principe, Melia Braco, Excellence, Iberostar, DeCameron, Hilton Rose Hall, Hyatt Ziva and Zilara, AM Resorts and Grand Palladium.

Many of the hotels had post-stay billing with the tour operator and are expected to be impacted in a major way.

Some are holding 30-60 days after travel arrangements for payments.

At least one ground transportation owner, who asked not to be identified, said they transferred up to 200 Thomas Cook passengers per week to various hotels on the island.

“The impact will be big, but I am not able to speak on until I get something official,” said the ground handler.

The devastation of the collapse in relation to Jamaica is not immediately clear, however, persons such as the transportation investor are likely to have bought large coach buses to accommodate clients of the bankrupt European tour operator.