WestJet Connects Canada, Gulf Coast

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Toronto and Sarasota will soon be just one cheap plane ride apart. Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport officials announced Monday that Canadian airline WestJet, a low-cost carrier, will begin nonstop service between the two cities starting in December. For the tourism industry on the Gulf Coast, that means a stronger connection with the entire Canada market at a time when visitation from the Great White North has grown increasingly important.

“This is very exciting for Canadian customers traveling to our beautiful Gulf Coast communities,” said SRQ airport President and CEO Fredrick Piccolo, “and will provide additional opportunities for locals to explore Canada and other destinations worldwide.”

WestJet starting Dec. 18 will offer nonstop service on Fridays and Sundays between SRQ and Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ). The flights will be offered seasonally, running through April 29. Flights will be on a Boeing 737-700 with 136 seats. Morning flights are scheduled to depart Toronto at 8:05am and land in Sarasota at 11:06am, with afternoon flights departing Sarasota at 11:55am and landing in Toronto at 2:39pm.

Virginia Haley, president of Visit Sarasota County, said more visitors to Sarasota County originate from Toronto than any other international city, and the city is the seventh-most important origin city to the county. Since Oct.1, around 72,000 visitors to the county have come from Canada, compared to some 25,000 from the United Kingdom and 18,000 from Central European nations (Germany, Switzerland and Austria). She said WestJet should open access to more Canadians as well. “This is the first time a low-fare carrier comes from this market,” she said. “If ever there is a complaint from Canadian visitors, especially from Toronto, it’s that they feel they have to go to Buffalo for low-fare alternatives.” 

In Manatee County, tourism officials say Canada still trails Europe in terms of importance as far as visitors. In the first quarter of the year, for example, some 14,530 visitors originated from Europe while 14,050 came from Canada. But Elliot Falcione, director of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Center, said getting the WestJet connection may be most important to the area as a means to serve seasonal residents who live in Toronto but winter in Sarasota. With the nonstop flight, Falcione said a concerted effort would be made toward boosting travel from Toronto to Manatee County. “With these additional flights in and out of Toronto, we will look at putting more advertising and public relations in that area,” he said. 

 

            

 
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