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Jun 5, 2017

Southwest Now Comes from Fort Lauderdale

Tourism numbers are expected to grow with the addition of a new route to Belize. Over the weekend, Southwest started flying from Fort Lauderdale Hollywood to the Philip Goldson airport. When it touched down at the P.G.I.A. on Sunday, a water salute greeted the new flight which brought on board an official delegation as well as the media. News Five’s Isani Cayetano and cameraman George Tillett were also on the flight.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Travel remains a growing area of our local economy, with significant input from the tourism industry anchoring Belize’s gross domestic product.  Realizing the vast potential of the service sector, all efforts are being made to ensure success by constantly creating opportunities and setting standards for travel at home and abroad.  That goal in mind, the Belize Tourism Board has been instrumental in marketing the country as an ideal location for the holiday business.  To that end, a partnership with Southwest Airlines continues to bear fruit by generating revenue through ticket sales and visitor arrivals.  The latest feature is a direct flight from Fort Lauderdale Hollywood Airport to the P.G.I.A.

 

Karen Bevans

Karen Bevans, Director of Tourism, B.T.B.

“It’s a new route.  It’s one that we really wanted, it was one that was highly demanded in Belize and by our international travelers, particularly in South Florida.  Because of the success that we have seen with the Southwest flight from Houston Hobby to Belize, we are expecting a great amount of tourist arrivals because of this flight.”

 

That scheduled airlift from one of Florida’s three “directional” regions comes at a unique time.

 

Brad Hawkins

Brad Hawkins, Communication, Southwest Airlines

“Broward County is on the cusp of opening this three hundred, thirty-three million dollar renovation of Terminal One and from that place Southwest will be launching a lot of new international service.”

 

Those offerings will include flights to Grand Cayman, Belize City, Montego Bay and Cancun.  To celebrate the occasion, a team of reporters and cameramen from the local media was invited to Fort Lauderdale to cover the inaugural trip.  Our weekend jaunt revolved around an informal gathering at the Southwest Soundstage.

 

Shari Gonzalez

Shari Gonzalez, VP Sales, iHeartMedia Miami

“The collaboration between both Southwest Airlines and iHeartMedia really felt like a natural fit because of the commitment that Southwest Airlines has to their fliers but also to music and iHeartMedia.  Music continues to be the number one passion of consumers worldwide.  It is the great connector and so we at iHeartMedia really take great pride in this partnership that we have and you are sitting in and standing in our Southwest Soundstage.  This is really a labor of vision and passion and love.”

 

So too has been the effort of the Ministry of Tourism in vigorously promoting Belize.

 

Manuel Heredia Jr.

Manuel Heredia Jr., Minister of Tourism

“It’s all about hard work.  We have been lobbying Southwest and other airlines for, it takes about two to three years, sometimes four years before you can materialize what is happening today.  But I am very excited and very proud, particularly because I believe Southwest has been a very aggressive airline.  When they speak about visiting Belize and them speaking of coming, they are coming for sure.”

 

Among those visitors is Dion Spain, a flight attendant with Southwest who is originally from Belize.  His return home today is not to assist airline passengers, but for some much needed rest and recreation.

 

Dion Spain

Dion Spain, Flight Attendant, Southwest Airlines

“Working for this particular airline is quite… It is an experience, it’s quite the challenge that I’ve always been waiting for.  It’s one of the most amazing air company to work for in the aviation industry.  I’ve been with them for eleven years as a flight attendant and I can still imagine like it’s my first day today.”

 

It’s the flight crew’s first trip to the Jewel.  Before boarding the plane there’s a brief ribbon-cutting to commemorate the inaugural flight to Belize.  It’s also the stateside culmination of a series of activities leading up to today.

 

Karen Bevans

“On Thursday we attended the opening ceremony for the new international terminal that Southwest built here at the Fort Lauderdale Airport.  Last night we attended the celebrations because they had celebrated five international destinations that are launching flights to and today now, the inaugural flight where we are all at the gate, all excited, pretty busy but we are happy about it.  The flight is full and we also have a celebration in Belize, so when the flight arrives there there’s another celebration.”

 

…and from there we’re wheels up, our guests all proudly waving their Belizean flags onboard the aircraft.  Two and half hours later, we touch down at the P.G.I.A. and are greeted with the symbolic jet spray reserved for successful maiden visits.

 

Jorge Espat

Jorge Espat, Managing Director, Belize Airport Concession Company

“What is there not to celebrate?  Congratulations again Southwest.  The addition of the Fort Lauderdale service to Belize provides an additional two hundred and eighty-six arriving and departing seats, connecting our region to the world and finally at bargain fares.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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