BY: Maria Valencia
Long lines and even longer delays for passengers are the results of staff shortages and a significant increase in international travelers at Jamaica’s busiest airport.
This, despite its recent political unrest and rising crime rates prompted the government to declare a state of emergency. Jamaica continues to set records in the travel industry and is currently on track to grow its economy by 11% by 2023.
A massive wave of violence triggered by a surge in gang activity in recent months shook Jamaica to its core, especially in places with low police presence where the growth of paramilitary groups could not be stopped. Due to the extreme instability, a state of emergency (SOE) was declared in nine of fourteen parishes by Prime Minister Andrew Holness in late 2022.
The Associated Press quoted Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett as saying that 1.18 million travelers landed at Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay between January and March, a 94 percent increase over the same period in 2022.
Bartlett’s total is likewise a record high for Jamaica’s peak travel period.
The dramatic increase in tourist numbers has led to “long queues and hours-long waits,” Bartlett shared that authorities are working to speed up the process by using improved technology and eliminating the requirement for entry documents.
“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 told The AP.
According to Prime Minister Andrew Holness, Sangster International is undertaking a $70 million modernization and expansion project to be completed by 2025 that “will make Jamaica more competitive with other countries in the region.”
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