Wed | Aug 10, 2022

MBJ transformation under way as arrivals pick up

Published:Tuesday | June 28, 2022 | 12:08 AMJanet Silvera/Senior Gleaner Writer

WESTERN BUREAU:

An expanded departure area of 2,700 square metres of retail space and seating are among the improvements MBJ Airports Limited has added to the Sangster International passenger experience.

And this is just the beginning of the unveiling of a number of exciting upgrades MBJ Airport Limited CEO Shane Munroe revealed will make the airport more comfortable for travellers this summer.

Some 20 more self-service kiosks are to be added at Sangster, bringing the total to 60 by August – the highest number among English-speaking Caribbean islands.

Munroe was responding to Gleaner queries as Frontier Airlines made its inaugural flight from Tampa, Florida, last Friday with 141 passengers.

BUSY WITH REVAMP

With the summer already kick-started and a solid growth forecast, MBJ has been busy with the airport transformation project. Next up on their list are the expansion of the immigration hall, outbound security area, check-in area, and all landside roads as of 2023.

“We’re adding more processing checkpoints at the passport area and also the outbound security number of lanes. Similar discussions are happening on the immigration side to increase the number of processing points, so you will see improved processes and a faster experience for passengers going through the airport,” Munroe explained.

The island’s marketing efforts are also paying off and the country is on the cusp of pre-pandemic numbers, with indications of stronger bookings, particularly this summer, Tourism Director Donovan White told The Gleaner.

Frontier’s new route has opened the northern Florida market into Jamaica, adding Tampa to its Philadelphia, Miami, Atlanta, and Orlando roster.

White sees Tampa as an interesting market – a huge feeder market for destination weddings which also has lots of affluent travellers.

“And so we believe that that will add to our focus on driving higher-revenue tourist arrivals and overall just more traffic from the Florida catchment area,” he said.

Offering twice-weekly service from Tampa, White forecast this Frontier expansion will allow Jamaica to meet its target of 800,000 arrivals this summer.

The Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB), he added, is also in discussions with the airline about other gateways which could be strategic for the country, hinting that Frontier could add yet another Jamaica route by year end.

There are also significant plans for Europe later this year, and Jamaica is expected to host a huge group of new market tour operators also of Eastern Europe and the Baltic States of Europe in September on a special marketplace endeavour that the JTB is spearheading.

Already, Jamaica expects to start getting business out of the Middle East and North Africa.

“Latin America is on its way back,” he added. “Copa Airlines is about to expand or increase its rotation to Jamaica up to three times a week for both Kingston and Montego Bay and we are hoping to have some word on carriers out of that region.”

By the end of the year, Jamaica expects between 85-87 per cent of tourists compared to its 2019 arrival numbers, which is the benchmark as it was the country’s greatest year of arrivals, said White.

Full recovery was estimated for late 2025; however, based on the current trajectory, it is projected that this could happen by September 2023.

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com