Jamaica News (JIS) –Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of MBJ Airports Limited, Dr. Rafael Echevarne, says the Sangster International Airport (SIA) continues to play an important role in the growth of Jamaica’s economy.
He said that for the 15 years of the MBJ concession, the facility has injected US$160 million into the Jamaican economy through tax and concession fees.
Additionally, the airport continues to provide employment for 7,500 individuals, with 150 being directly employed to MBJ Airports limited.
Dr. Echevarne was addressing a forum at the SIA’s Montego Bay location on April 26 as part of activities to mark the MBJ’s 15th anniversary.
MBJ Airport Limited officially marked the halfway point in its 30-year concession as operator of the airport on April 12.
Dr. Echevarne informed that over the years, US$230 million has been invested in improving operations.
He noted that 52.3 million passengers have passed through SIA, and the numbers are expected to increase as developments continue. He said that there was an 8.4 per cent growth in passenger traffic last year.
“That is tremendous in this part of the world. In the Caribbean region, the average growth over the last five years has been in the order of two per cent, so achieving 8.4 per cent is tremendous, and over the last 15 years, we have actually added one more million passengers into this airport,” he pointed out.
Dr. Echevarne said continuous efforts will be made to build on existing markets, particularly in the United States, which supplies the largest passenger traffic, and also to tap into new markets.
He informed that Panama’s COPA Airlines will be providing daily services, which will enable connections to the rest of Latin America.
In addition, a new flight has been inaugurated to Baltimore, and a flight to Moscow, Russia, is expected to come on stream this summer.
Dr. Echevarne further informed that LATAM, the largest airline in Latin America, is “seriously considering” flights between Lima, Peru and Montego Bay, and other airlines have also been engaged.
The MBJ Airports Limited CEO said that as the prospects for business grow, special effort will be made to ensure that Jamaican companies will benefit.
“Eighty-one per cent of the businesses that operate at the airport are Jamaican-owned and operated. That is something that we are very proud of, and I want you to know that whenever we look at bringing more businesses in the airport, our first thought is Jamaican companies,” he noted.
Dr. Echevarne told the forum that MBJ will be increasing collaboration with the Passport and Immigration and Customs Agency (PICA) to invest in the necessary technologies to handle the growing number of passengers.
Meanwhile, as part of its 15th year celebration, MBJ also unveiled its ‘I love Montego Bay’ sign.
According to Mr. Echevarne, the sign depicts “all that is positive about the city and its offerings to the millions of visitors we receive each year,” he said.
He said the intention is for the sign “to add to the allure of Montego Bay and become an attraction in and of itself”.