Jamaica attracts 1.18 million tourists in Q1 2023, rise of 94% from 2022

Friday, April 28, 2023


Tourists coming to Jamaica’s sun-drenched beaches increased over 100% in the first three months of the year, resulting in huge lines and hours-long delays for arriving passengers at the island’s major airport.

Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett told a press that the difficulty resulted from a lack of airport personnel to handle the unanticipated influx of tourists arriving into Montego Bay’s Sangster International Airport since the pandemic’s end.

Later that day, Bartlett told Parliament that there were 1.18 million arrivals from January to March, which is 94% higher than the same time in 2022 and a record high for Jamaica’s tourist hot 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 said.

He stated that officials intend to spend more money on technology as they attempt to eliminate paperwork at the airport, including eliminating the obligation for guests to fill out a form upon arrival.

The challenges at Sangster, according to Prime Minister Andrew Holness, highlight the need of completing the $70 million modernization and expansion project that was already underway.

Holness stated that the renovations at the Caribbean’s largest and busiest airport will make Jamaica more attractive and competitive with other countries in the region, which have also invested heavily in improving their infrastructure.

The runway is being lengthened as part of the renovation at a cost of $34 million, with construction scheduled to be completed in June.

Bartlett said during an interview last week that they are excited about the prospects of Sangster being able to accommodate these mega airlines that will be flying to Jamaica and the Caribbean.

He stated that the Tourism Ministry’s expansion strategy is to attract 5 million visitors per year by 2025.

This is a 35% increase from Jamaica’s record of 3.7 million visitors in 2022.

According to Bartlett, Asian and Middle Eastern nations are among the new markets being sought, and the airport must be equipped to accommodate larger planes used on such long-haul trips.

Prior to the epidemic, the airport handled 4.7 million passengers, including locals and tourists, in 2019. Tourists visiting Jamaica peaked at 3.7 million in 2022, with 70% using the Sangster gateway.

Sangster is administered by MBJ Airports Ltd., a partnership comprised of 74.5% owned by a subsidiary of Mexican airport operator and the remaining 25% held by Vantage Airport Group of Canada.

The consortium, which has a 30-year concession that began in 2003, stated that it spent $287 million on airport improvements over the first 18 years of the agreement.

Among the enhancements are the expansion of the immigration hall and departure lounge by the airport operator.

To cut passenger processing and waiting times, the check-in area was recently furnished with 60 self-service kiosks, with plans to install more.

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