Tuesday, August 13, 2013 - 9:40am
In a joint press conference this morning, officials from Visit St. Pete/Clearwater, Tampa International Airport and Visit Tampa Bay joined Copa Airlines executives to announce the
Panama-based airline's new nonstop service to Panama's Tocumen International (PTY) beginning Dec. 17, 2013.
With connections to all major cities in Brazil and Colombia---as well as
Latin American capitals including San Jose, Caracas, Buenos Aires, Lima and Quito, among others---the new service will effectively connect Tampa Bay to the entire Latin American market for the first time in the area's history.
"Opening up Central and South America via brand-new Copa service is a real game-changer for us," said D.T. Minich, executive director of Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater. "The growth potential for this market is huge, and we're prepared to nurture this market like we have done with our European offices over the years."
Minich used today's press conference to announce the formation of a new Latin American sales department within Visit St. Pete/Clearwater, the first new sales department to be added in nearly two decades.
"This is the time for us to expand our presence across Latin America, and we are prepared to do what it takes to make this a success," added Minich. "This is an extraordinary opportunity."
Other local officials agree. "This is a huge win for the Tampa Bay region, opening an easy connection for business and leisure travelers to all of
Latin America," said Joe Lopano, CEO of Tampa International Airport. "Our success in recruiting Copa is the result of tremendous cooperation with our community partners, who helped us make a compelling business case for this market to one of the world's most successful airlines."
Santiago Corrada, CEO of Visit Tampa Bay, said that his organization's efforts to attract conference planners and organizers from around the world will also benefit from the new service. "Together as a team, we will sell our destination in Latin America," Corrada said.
Copa offers flights to more international destinations than any other airline from any other hub in the Latin American region. In-transit passengers making connections do not have immigration/customs waits and baggage is checked to the final destination.
Copa, which transported more than 10 million passengers in 2012, operates one of the youngest and most modern fleets in the industry, and its on-time performance above 90 percent is among the best worldwide. A member of the Star Alliance, Copa was just named "Best Airline in the Central America and Caribbean region" at the Skytrax World Airline Awards.
The Tampa Bay area will be Copa's ninth U.S. destination and its 66th destination overall.