Jamaica is hailed as “the next big thing” for Nigerian tourists by the country’s foreign minister, Hon. Geoffrey Onyeama after the arrival of the first direct flight from Nigeria to Jamaica that touched Sangster International Airport last night (December 21).
“We really expect to see it (tourism) take off on a large scale,” said Minister Onyeama, who was among approx. 140 passengers on the initial flight that landed just after 1 p.m. 22.00 and was greeted with two jet streams that created a water arc as the ship ran towards the terminal building.
The Nigerian foreign minister said in that region of the world that there was familiarity with Brazil, which has a large Nigerian population, but “we believe Jamaica is the next big thing for us in terms of tourism.”
He noted that “Nigerians are big travelers,” he said, “we are huge in tourism and travel.” Minister Onyeama said: “We just feel that this is a goldmine, a gem waiting to be discovered by the majority of Nigerians, and I think that when Nigerians discover this, you will see us in droves.” Among the passengers were travelers from Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa. Another direct flight is expected in two months.
While inevitably absent, Tourism Minister, Hon. Edmund Bartlett paid tribute to the historic arrival of the aircraft. Emphasizing the importance of flight, he said: “Historical and cultural ties between Nigeria and Jamaica go back to the days of slavery, and many Jamaicans today have the roots of their ancestors in the African country.” He added that “we have been working together to make this work for some time and I am pleased that we have opened another gateway that provides space for the extra growth of our tourism sector and the creation of greater bonds between both countries. ”
There was a strong representation of Jamaican government officials ready to welcome Minister Onyeama and the other Nigerian visitors. Minister of Transport and Mining, Hon. Robert Montague also saw it as a historic occasion. “For Jamaica to welcome Air Piece charter with a minister and over 130 Nigerians is historic in so many ways.” He said that “every Jamaican is happy tonight that we have welcomed our first direct flight from Nigeria. It will be the start of many good things. ”
Minister Montaque noted the co – operation of his ministry with the Ministries of Tourism, Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, the airport authority and Jamaica’s High Commissioner in Lagos, his Highness Esmond Reid, to make it happen.
The Welcome Party also included the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith; CEO of Jamaica Vacations, Mrs. Joy Roberts; Regional Director of Tourism, Mrs. Odette Dyer and CEO of MBJ Airports Ltd., Mr. Shane Munroe.