Avia Colinder, Business Writer
MBJ Airports Limited makes most of its money from the aeronautical side of Sangster International's operations, but commerce is also thriving at the terminal.
Non-aeronautical revenue, or NAR, now accounts for 34 per cent of turnover, according to MBJ's chief commercial officer, Elizabeth Brown Scotton.
The airport company has seen a steady rise in NAR since 2003 when MBJ Airport took control of the airport under concession from the Jamaican Government, she said.
Commercial activity at the airport spans specialty retail, food and beverage services, duty-free shopping, and cambio services.
Scotton said the expansion of the company's NAR is a deliberate strategy to grow overall income.
"In general, the overall NAR revenues are up 2.38 per cent year to date to July 31 over 2011, which is in line with passenger growth of 2.44 per cent over last year," she said.
On the aeronautical side, Sangster currently handles 3.3 million passengers per year, 4,800 tonnes of cargo, and more than 39,600 aircraft movements.
On the commercial side, MBJ says the star performers, which saw above-average growth of six per cent, are food and beverage segment, and duty-free shops.
"The most significant change in the last 24 months has been the move to a single food and beverage operator for the departures post-security area and the new Aldeasa (World Duty Free) east concourse walk-through store," said the commercial officer.
"The food and beverage category has introduced a number of international brands such as Quiznos, Auntie Anne's Pretzels and Cinnabon, which appeal to our largely visitor-oriented demographic at the airport. The introduction of these brands has stimulated the overall food and beverage programme increasing the results by as much as six per cent in this category," she said.
The airport's focus on NAR followed the slowing of worldwide traffic growth in a post-9/11 travel market.
Up to 2008, duty-free and food and beverage comprised 87 per cent of all NAR. MBJ did not provide more current data.
Scotton said the segment has been adding new brands and products, including cosmetics and a wider selection of liquors.
"There have also been a number of new stores opening or about to open, including a branded PUMA store, the new Jamaica Olympic Spirit Store, Cook Gear Boutique, and a new Sun Island location," she said.
Most of the stores are Jamaican-owned, but international operators such as LS Travel Retail and Relay also have a presence inside the terminal, the MBJ executive said.
At the airport, Ian Dear's Express Catering group operates two Margaritaville locations, Auntie Anne's, Quiznos, Cinnabon, Nathan's Hot Dogs, Bobsled Restaurant and the Groovy Grouper.
Dairy Queen, the first of two proposed locations, as well as three other unnamed developments are to be added by yearend.
Wisynco Group operates Wendy's and Dominoes; Goddard Catering runs the Island Grill outlet and there is a Burger King as well as Margaritaville and Groovy Grouper at the Arrivals section, said Scotton.
However, in Departures, past the security checkpoint, there will be only one operator by 2014, who will handle international brands.
"The ability for that operator to attract international brands and to focus on meeting the needs of the customer base is greater. The overall programme benefits as a result," she said.
MBJ does not own shares in any of the commercial operations. It licenses operators who "pay a combination of fixed fees and percentage of sales," Scotton said.
MBJ Airports Limited is a consortium of two international partners - DCA, a subsidiary of Spanish company Abertis Infraestructuras SA; and Canada's YVR Airport Services Ltd - granted a 30-year concession from the Government of Jamaica to manage, operate and develop Sangster International Airport since 2003.
Abertis Airports holds a 74 per cent stake in MBJ Airports, while Canada's Vancouver Airport Services holds 25.5 per cent.
MBJ Airports has invested approximately US$160 million in capital infrastructure improvements at the airport.
The airport company, while inviting bids for the foreign exchange bureau in 2010, said that after a five-year capital expansion programme, the airport had 4,000 square metres of space in the internal terminal building dedicated to retail space.
The terminal is designed to handle up to 3,000 passengers per peak hour.
Vantage Airport Group, which manages Sangster's expansion projects, says on its website that the airport expansion has "doubled the terminal footprint and included new departure facilities, a central retail area, 18 additional loading bridges, ground transportation improvements and a new aircraft refuelling system."
MBJ says on its website that US$20 million is being invested in construction projects this year. The plans include overlaying the runway and a new fire hall, under management by Vantage, that is due to be completed by the end of the year.
"In 2013, we expect the changes to the commercial programme to stabilise after 2012, [which] was a year of transition and changes," Scotton said.