Sangster upgrading to position airport as major player in economy

Monday, September 25, 2017

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ST JAMES, Jamaica (JIS) — Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Sangster International Airport, Dr Rafael Echevarne, says the upgrading of the facility will help to position the airport as a key player in the economy.

“We see ourselves playing a major role in Jamaica. We want to position ourselves as something that really stands out from being just a mere piece of infrastructure,” he said at a stakeholders' forum held at the Montego Bay Convention Centre recently.

Dr Echevarne's company, Montego Bay Jamaica (MBJ), which operates Sangster International, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Airports Authority of Jamaica (AAJ) to expand and upgrade the existing runway.

The project, which falls under a major improvement plan for the facility, includes expansion and upgrading of the existing terminal building in addition to the provision of additional parking spaces to the western end of the facility.

Echevarne said expansion of the runway will enable the airport to accommodate larger aircraft.

He said the work to be undertaken will reflect the uniqueness of “everything Jamaican”, creating an experience that will give passengers the look and feel of Jamaica, both on arrival and departure.

“Jamaica encompasses many things that are unique to Jamaica, and we want to reflect that,” he noted.

“We want to… create a new vision for the airport. Also, we want to come up with a new logo and a new image of the airport. Basically, we see the airport as an integral part of Jamaica's tourism product. It plays a key role as the entry and exit points for most tourists visiting the country, and, as such, contributes to the overall holiday experience,” he added.

Dr Echevarne said MBJ and its stakeholders are of the firm belief that the airport, located in the country's tourism capital, should provide an “Irie airport experience”.

“This word coveys a very positive feeling,” he noted. “By providing the Irie airport experience, we have to provide the facilities and services to facilitate growth in a stress-free environment. That means that not only are the services going to be friendly, but also it has to be stress-free from the point that it has to be expeditious, efficient and so on,” he explained.
Meanwhile, Dr Echevarne said the airport is looking to welcome more than four million passengers this year.

He noted that the growth rate over the past five years has been around five per cent, with the facility welcoming 3.95 million passengers in 2016.
“There is no doubt in our minds that this year we will exceed that four-million passenger mark,” he said.

“In the international context, those numbers are typical, but in the Caribbean context, they are quite high. The Caribbean, on the whole, has grown below three per cent, so Jamaica is doing quite well,” Dr Echevarne said.

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