Tuesday, May 7

Tourism booms in Jamaica after pandemic, overwhelms airport

KINGSTON, Jamaica — The variety of vacationers flocking to Jamaica’s sun-drenched seashores soared almost 100% within the first three months of the yr, inflicting lengthy queues and hours-long waits for arriving passengers on the island’s most important airport.

Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett instructed The Associated Press that the issue stemmed from a scarcity of airport employees to course of the surprising quantity of individuals flying into Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay for the reason that finish of the pandemic.

Bartlett instructed Parliament later that day that there have been 1.18 million arrivals from January via March – 94% greater than the identical interval of 2022 and a report excessive for Jamaica’s tourism excessive season.

“The recovery has been stronger than anticipated and everybody all over the world is having difficulty with their airports because … (many) of the workers have not come back,” Bartlett mentioned.

He mentioned authorities plan to spend extra on know-how as they attempt to eliminate paperwork on the airport, together with ending a requirement for guests to fill out a type upon arrival.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness mentioned the issues at Sangster underscore the necessity to push via the $70 million modernization and growth challenge that already was underway.

The work is scheduled to be accomplished by 2025, and Honess mentioned the enhancements on the Caribbean’s largest and busiest airport “will make Jamaica more attractive and make Jamaica more competitive with other countries in the region, which have also invested heavily in improving their infrastructure.”

As a part of the challenge, the runway is being lengthened at a value of $34 million, work that’s anticipated to be completed in June.

“We are excited about the prospects of Sangster being able to accommodate these mega airlines that will be flying to Jamaica and the Caribbean,” Bartlett mentioned throughout the AP interview final week.

He mentioned the Tourism Ministry’s progress plan goals to have the island draw 5 million guests yearly by 2025. That can be a 35% enhance from Jamaica‘s peak of three.7 million vacationers in 2022.

Bartlett mentioned Asian and Middle Eastern nations are amongst new markets being focused and the airport should be capable of accommodate the bigger plane that will be used on such long-haul flights.

In 2019, earlier than the pandemic, the airport processed 4.7 million passengers, together with residents and guests. The variety of vacationers to Jamaica peaked at 3.7 million in 2022, 70% of whom used the Sangster gateway.

Sangster is managed by MBJ Airports Ltd., a consortium 74.5% owned by a subsidiary of the Mexican airports operator Grupo Aeroportuario del Pacifico and the remainder by Vantage Airport Group of Canada.

The consortium, which has a 30-year concession that started in 2003, mentioned it spent $287 million to enhance the airport within the first 18 years of the deal.

Among the enhancements, the airport operator has expanded the immigration corridor and departure lounge. The check-in space was not too long ago outfitted with 60 self-service kiosks, with plans to put in extra, to cut back passenger processing and ready occasions.

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