In the first three months of the year, the number of travelers visiting Jamaica’s beaches increased by about 100%, resulting in huge lines and prolonged wait times for passengers at the island’s main airport.
Tourism minister Edmund Bartlett said the issue was a lack of airport personnel to handle the unexpected influx of travelers landing at Montego Bay’s Sangster International Airport since the pandemic’s end.
Later that day, Bartlett reported to Parliament that there had been 1.18 million arrivals between January and March, a record high for Jamaica’s peak travel season and 94% more than the comparable period in 2022.
Since many of the workers have not returned, everyone’s airports are experiencing difficulties, according to Bartlett. “The recovery has been stronger than anticipated,” he added.
He added that officials intend to invest more money in technology to eliminate paperwork at the airport.
This includes doing away with the necessity that travelers fill out a form when they arrive.
According to Prime Minister Andrew Holness, the issues at Sangster highlight the necessity of moving on with the $70 million modernization and expansion project already underway.
Honess stated that the improvements at the most significant and busiest airport in the Caribbean, which are expected to be finished by 2025, “will make Jamaica more attractive and make Jamaica more competitive with other countries in the region, which have also heavily invested in improving their infrastructure.”
The runway is being extended as part of the project, which will cost $34 million and be finished in June.
In an interview with the AP last week, Bartlett stated, “We are excited about the prospects of Sangster being able to accommodate these mega airlines that will be flying to Jamaica and the Caribbean.”
By 2025, the island is expected to welcome 5 million tourists yearly, according to the tourism ministry’s expansion strategy, he said. In that case,
According to Bartlett, new markets being pursued include those in Asia and the Middle East, and the airport needs to be equipped to handle the larger planes required for such lengthy flights.
Before the pandemic in 2019, the airport handled 4.7 million passengers, locals, and tourists. 70% of the 3.7 million tourists who visited Jamaica at its peak in 2022 did so through the Sangster gateway.
Sangster is run by MBJ Airports Ltd., a partnership owned 74.5 percent by a division of Grupo Aeroportuario del Pacifico, a Mexican airport operator, and the remaining 37.5 percent by Vantage Airport Group of Canada.
The partnership said it invested $287 million to upgrade the airport in the first 18 years of the 30-year concession, which started in 2003.
The airport manager has also increased the size of the departure lounge and immigration area.
To speed up the processing of passengers and cut down on waiting times, 60 self-service kiosks have recently been installed at the check-in area, and more are planned.