President of the Airports Authority of Jamaica (AAJ), Audley Deidrick, says Jamaica’s airport traffic is set to hit five million passengers by the end of this year, given the rapid drive phase of the recovery of the island’s travel and tourism industry from the COVID-19 pandemic.
While speaking recently at an MBJ Airports Limited-hosted forum to provide an update on the airport’s initiatives and other projects aimed at recovery, Deidrick said when the pandemic hit, aviation traffic fell to almost zero in June 2020.
On July 15 of that year, the Government reopened the national borders to aviation traffic on a phased basis.
Deidrick said despite the resumption of incoming passenger traffic, the best forecast for aviation recovery was set at five to six years.
However, he said Jamaica’s recovery has far exceeded expectations, with 2021 seeing some 3.4 million passengers arriving.
“This current year, 2022, has shown the sharpest climb on the recovery curve, and hence my characterising this year as the rapid drive phase of the recovery process,” he said.
“From a sluggish start in the first quarter of 2020, our aviation traffic driven as usual by tourism traffic, which represents over 80 per cent, has taken on a rapid growth such that for the month of May and June (this year), the traffic for MBJ (Montego Bay) has equalled that of the corresponding months of 2019,” Diedrick outlined.
Based on the sharp uptick in passenger arrivals, he remains cautiously optimistic that Jamaica’s aviation traffic will fully recover three years earlier than expected.
“Based on this aggressive rate of growth of 2022, the current forecast is for Jamaica’s aviation traffic to hit five million passengers or 77 per cent of the 2019 level by December 2022,” Diedrick indicated.
“Furthermore, given the forecast for 2022, it is now expected that Jamaica’s aviation traffic will hit the 2019 level of 6.5 million passengers by December 2023. This is instead of the forecasted timeline of 2025-2026 – all of three years earlier,” stated the AAJ president.