Pleasant Holidays brings West Coast to market

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LOS ANGELES -- New products and promotions could make 2003 a breakthrough year in travel to the Caribbean from the West Coast, according to travel officials here.

One major catalyst is expected to be the new Caribbean program of Pleasant Holidays, which will begin distributing 48-page brochures and accepting reservations Nov. 15 for travel starting in January.

Donnie Dawson, regional director for the Jamaica Tourist Board here, said Jamaica and other destinations have been "trying to get Pleasant to start in the Caribbean for the last 15 years."

Noting that 60% of Pleasant's business is in the West, Dawson said, "I think they're going to bring a whole new clientele to the Caribbean. ... I think 2003 and beyond is a new dawn for the West Coast."

More predicted good news for the Caribbean from the West: in April, Air Jamaica will be increasing service from Los Angeles from five flights per week to two flights per day, for the entire summer.

Allen Chastanet, vice president of sales and marketing for Air Jamaica, said the Los Angeles. service, started four years ago, had a 91% load factor this summer, compared with a load factor in the 70s during the summer of 2001.

Both Chastanet and Dawson pointed out in separate interviews that most prospective visitors don't realize that the flying time to Montego Bay on Air Jamaica is almost the same as the flying time to Honolulu.

Dawson called it "a message we need to get out to the West Coast travelers."

The second Air Jamaica flight from L.A., he added, "enables us to get connections from other West Coast cities, which we couldn't do before."

Michael Gardiner, vice president of marketing from Pleasant Holidays, said his company believes their business to Jamaica from the West Coast "is going to be incremental business."

Pleasant also has agreements with American, from Northern California and Pacific Northwest gateways, Delta and US Airways, he said.

"We are committed to the [Caribbean] market," Gardiner said. Besides commissions of 12%, he said, "we'll also be working in our $40 bonus for every two bookings."

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