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Tourism booms in Jamaica after pandemic, overwhelms airport

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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 essential airport.

Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett advised The Related Press that the issue stemmed from a scarcity of airport workers to course of the sudden quantity of individuals flying into Sangster Worldwide Airport in Montego Bay because the finish of the pandemic.

Bartlett advised Parliament later that day that there have been 1.18 million arrivals from January by way of March — 94% greater than the identical interval of 2022 and a file excessive for Jamaica’s tourism excessive season.

“The restoration has been stronger than anticipated and all people all around the world is having problem with their airports as a result of … (many) of the employees haven’t come again,” Bartlett stated.

He stated authorities plan to spend extra on expertise as they attempt to cast off paperwork on the airport, together with ending a requirement for guests to fill out a kind upon arrival.

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Prime Minister Andrew Holness stated the issues at Sangster underscore the necessity to push by way of the $70 million modernization and enlargement undertaking that already was underway.

The work is scheduled to be accomplished by 2025, and Honess stated the enhancements on the Caribbean’s largest and busiest airport “will make Jamaica extra enticing and make Jamaica extra aggressive with different international locations within the area, which have additionally invested closely in enhancing their infrastructure.”

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

“We’re excited concerning the prospects of Sangster having the ability to accommodate these mega airlines that will likely be flying to Jamaica and the Caribbean,” Bartlett stated throughout the AP interview final week.

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

Bartlett stated Asian and Center Japanese international locations are amongst new markets being focused and the airport should be capable of accommodate the bigger plane that may 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, stated it spent $287 million to enhance the airport within the first 18 years of the deal.

Among the many enhancements, the airport operator has expanded the immigration corridor and departure lounge. The check-in space was lately outfitted with 60 self-service kiosks, with plans to put in extra, to scale back passenger processing and ready occasions.

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