JAMAICA. MBJ Airports Limited, operator of Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, is preparing to launch a series of Requests for Proposals covering commercial concessions from duty free to specialty retail.
The Moodie Davitt Report is exclusively tracking the tender and expansion timeline and will bring you regular news and analysis in the run-up to the bid, which will kick off later this year.
The tender process is being run in parallel to an ambitious airport expansion programme and the related redevelopment of the entire commercial area. MBJ Airports has a concession to manage the airport until 2033.
MBJ Airports Limited Chief Executive Officer Dr. Rafael Echevarne told The Moodie Davitt Report, “The two developments are taking place hand in hand. There is the overall expansion of the airport and the expansion of the departures area, which includes a 50 percent increase in the main commercial retail area.”
Echevarne described traffic growth over recent times as “phenomenal”, driving the need to extend capacity. “We’ve been growing at double digits this year, and over the last couple of years we’ve actually broken all previous records,” he said. In 2018 Sangster International handled some 4.5 million arriving and departing passengers, a figure that’s likely to climb to near 5 million this year.
MBJ Airports is working with several renowned international partners on the commercial planning and design, including UK companies The Design Solution and Pragma. London-based multi-national engineering and design company ARUP is charged with the implementation of the airport master plan as the overarching designer and architect and has partnered with local contractors and engineering firms on the project.
Ground will be broken on the airport expansion later this year. “We are going to open up the space to natural light, introduce high ceilings and really create a major transformation of the look and feel of the airport,” said Echevarne. Work is expected to be completed in the second half of 2020.
Manager, Commercial Business Development & Marketing Sharon Hislop-Holt told The Moodie Davitt Report that the various RFPs will be issued later this year. Some 22,000sq ft will be made available for duty free (three departures locations and one in arrivals) and around 15,000sq ft for specialty retail. International giant Dufry is the duty free incumbent at the airport.
At present the airport has 20 specialty shops airside, all of which are coming up for bid. Additional landside shops will be included in the tender. A kiosk programme, closer to the gates, will offer a further eight commercial locations some for more experiential concepts, including pop-up opportunities.
“Additionally, we intend to have jewellery and watches on offer,” said Ms Hislop-Holt.
The airport expansion is likely to also include an adjacent mini-mall and airport hotel. “These won’t just be for the airport passengers but also for people doing business in Montego Bay,” said Echevarne. “A business hotel is something that Montego Bay is lacking. So, that’s a very exciting thing that we are looking into.”
Jamaican Sense of Place
As part of its strong commitment to local tourism, MBJ Airports is especially keen to enhance the Jamaican product offering. One of the airport’s best-performing stores is a store that carries only coffee and spices – underlining the potential for quality destination merchandise to prosper. As a result, the tender will present opportunities for a high-end Jamaican art and ceramics store with an emphasis on unique souvenirs.
The retail design, courtesy of The Design Solution, will be themed around Jamaican nature. “Basically, the idea is to ensure that when you step off that plane, you know you have arrived in Jamaica – from the point of view of the colours, the images and the music. All of that will embrace you,” said Echevarne. “You will say, “I have arrived in Jamaica!
“MBJ Airports Limited sees itself as an integral part of the Jamaican tourism experience. As such, we believe we play a major role in helping to position Jamaica as a tourist destination.”
High and growing spend per head
US and Canadian visitors make up around 83% of the total passenger mix, followed by British and Germans (a fast-growing sector). European tourism to Jamaica is being driven by cruise tourism, with the Montego Bay area capturing over 80% of all tourists to the island.
Spend per head (across duty free, specialty and food & beverage) currently runs at an impressive US$31. With enhanced facilities and space, that could grow much higher, Echevarne believes. “We are setting the bar quite high, but we know that there is potential for it,” he says of the commercial plans. “We already perform quite well. But through the revamping of the airport, and by increasing the quality and the look and feel of the place, we believe that there is a definite upside.”
It’s that upside that is likely to attract some of the biggest international and regional travel retailers to one of the year’s most interesting tenders. Look out for further updates, including an on location report later this year from Montego Bay.
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