Jamaica is being hailed as “the next big thing” for Nigerian tourists by that country’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Hon. Geoffrey Onyeama, following the arrival of the first non-stop flight from Nigeria to Jamaica, which touched down at the Sangster International Airport last night (December 21).
“We really expect to see it (tourism) take off in a big way,” said Minister Onyeama, who was among some 140 passengers on the inaugural flight, which landed just after 10:00 p.m. and was welcomed with two jet streams creating a water arc, as the vessel cruised towards the terminal building.
The Nigerian Foreign Affairs Minister said in that region of the world there was familiarity with Brazil, which has a large Nigerian population, but “we believe that Jamaica is the next big thing for us as far as tourism is concerned.”
Noting that “Nigerians are big travellers,” he said “we’re huge in tourism and travel.” Minister Onyeama said: “We just feel this is a gold mine, a gem waiting to be discovered by the majority of Nigerians and I think once Nigerians discover this you will see us in droves.” Among the passengers were travellers from Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa. Another direct flight is expected in two months.
While unavoidably absent, Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett lauded the historic arrival of the flight. In stressing the flight’s significance, he said: “Historical and cultural ties between Nigeria and Jamaica date back to the days of slavery and many Jamaicans today have their ancestral roots in that African country.” He added that “we have been working together to bring this to fruition for some time and I am pleased that we have opened yet another gateway, which provides scope for the added growth of our tourism sector and the forging of greater bonds between both countries.”
There was a strong representation of Jamaican government officials on hand to welcome Minister Onyeama and the other Nigerian visitors. Minister of Transport and Mining, Hon. Robert Montague also saw it as an historic occasion. “For Jamaica to welcome Air Piece charter with a Minister and over 130 Nigerians is historic in so many ways.” He opined that “every single Jamaican is feeling good tonight that we have welcomed our first direct flight from Nigeria. It is going to be the start of many good things.”
Minister Montaque noted the collaboration of his ministry with the ministries of Tourism, Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, the Airports Authority and Jamaica’s High Commissioner in Lagos, His Excellency Esmond Reid, in making it happen.
The welcome party also included Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith; Executive Director of Jamaica Vacations, Mrs. Joy Roberts; Regional Director of Tourism, Mrs. Odette Dyer and Chief Executive Officer of MBJ Airports Ltd., Mr. Shane Munroe.