THIRTY per cent of Jamaica's room stock is nearer to the Ian Fleming International Airport than the other two landing points for commercial airlines.
Extending the St Mary-based airport's runway by 1,000 feet could shave hundreds of kilometres in travelling distance for tourists visiting the north and north- east coasts of the island, if they are flown there instead of Montego Bay or Kingston.
What's more, the savings on travelling costs could run into the hundreds of US dollars.
Based on Jamaica Observer calculations, Discovery Bay, St Ann, is roughly the midpoint between Montego Bay, where Sangster International Airport is located, and Boscobel, St Mary, the site of Ian Fleming.
Consequently, the 8,350 rooms at the hotels, villas and resorts east of Discovery Bay (Montego Bay is west of the St Ann township) — not including the soon-to-be-opened Trident Villas and Hotels — are closer by land to Boscobel than Sangster.
Certainly, for visitors to Portland, landing at Ian Fleming would shave over 100 kilometres (km) off the trip from Montego Bay (in one direction) and 30 km from Kingston.
Checks done by the Business Observer showed that persons travelling to and from Portland to the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay are required to pay between $15,000 (US$160) and $18,000 for ground transportation and between $8,000 and $9,000 to the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston.
The cost from the St Mary-based airport to properties could be $6,000 to $7,000 by some estimates.
Tourism interests have recently been lobbying for the airport to be converted to accommodate larger jets.
Adding another 1,000 feet of pavement could accommodate commercial airlines flying directly to the St Mary-based airport from as far north as New York, while planes from South American countries, like Colombia, and any Caribbean point of origin could touch down there.
The project could also raise room occupancy levels for smaller properties, which tend to be lower than those for hotels with more than 100 rooms.
All of the 850 rooms in Portland and 40 per cent of the 7,500 rooms in the Ocho Rios resort area belong to properties with less than 100 rooms.
Jamaica Tourist Board statistics showed that occupancy levels for properties with more than 100 rooms was 40 per cent to more than two times higher than for properties with less rooms.
Jamaica had approximately 28,300 rooms for tourist accommodation at the end of 2011.