Wed | Aug 21, 2019

Sangster arrivals take off with low-cost options

Published:Friday | February 22, 2019 | 12:44 AMJanet Silvera/Senior Gleaner Writer

WESTERN BUREAU:

Inexpensive fares offered by low-cost carriers are the key reason for the steady increase in tourist arrivals into Sangster International, the airport operator has said.

Speaking at a meeting of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Wednesday, Dr Rafael Echevarne, CEO of MBJ Airports Limited, attributed the robust activity of US-based Spirit and Southwest Airlines, as well as Germany-based Eurowings, to growth in tourist arrivals to the island via MBJ. Those numbers grew in 2018 by 250,000 year-on-year.

“The ones that are really growing, not just in Montego Bay, but all around the Caribbean, are the low-cost carriers,” Echevarne explained, pointing to the main reason being affordability.

For example, US travellers who are Montego Bay bound are able to book flights for hundreds of dollars less than on traditional airlines.

A major contributing factor, he said, was the upswing in self-reservations and the emergence of Airbnb.

In further analysis, Echevarne said the gateways from which the highest numbers of passengers travelled to Jamaica last year were the ones where the low-cost carriers are permanently based.

Fort Lauderdale Airport in Florida was a traffic leader, not only because of the heavy concentration of Jamaicans there but because of the numbers brought in by Southwest and Spirit airlines.

In addition, Baltimore/Washington, from which Southwest Airlines also flies to Jamaica, has become a major catchment area for the island.

The CEO said MBJ is trying to capitalise on other gateways that still remained untapped in order to woo more low-cost carriers to Jamaica. He noted that MBJ served 61 airports and 29 airlines, figures he plans to increase.

“So, one of the most important things, from a commercial point of view, that we do at the airport is to actually ensure that we talk to the right airlines, that we actually establish relationships with them to really tap into those markets that are not currently served,” he said.

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com