The Design Solution creates a new design for MBJ Airport

By Andrew Pentol |

UK-based The Design Solution has created a new design for the main terminal at Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, Jamaica. The new design is understood to blend creative design with key commercial drivers. 

It adopts an effective walkthrough strategy that demonstrates how design can support relatively small airports investing to drive non-aeronautical revenue streams.

In this instance, the design enables Sangster to dramatically increase the scale of passenger exposure to the retail offer, giving all passengers sight of it. The new development covering 6,600sq m of space is expected to be undertaken in 2018/2019.

The Design Solution Founder and Managing Director Robbie Gill said: “As is common with the layout at many airports, Sangster International’s two-level layout presented a serious challenge to achieving the optimal exposure of passengers to the retail offer.”


After check-in on the ground floor, entry to the upper floor brings passengers to the middle of the Dufry-operated duty free shop–as reported, the retailer opened its new 115sq m arrivals store in May. With gates at each end of the building, travellers turning towards the northern gates have no exposure to the core retail space towards the southern end of the terminal.

With this causing a loss in footfall of 40%-45%, the design needed to address this “huge opportunity” as currently the northern retail space is focused on souvenirs when the category spectrum is much broader.

The combination of the walkthrough route and clear sightlines created in the open space, ensures all passengers pass through the main duty free store and see the broader retail offer in the northern and southern terminal areas.

TDS MBJ Existing Design March 2018

TDS MBJ New design March 2018

The new (below) and existing (above) designs for the main terminal at Sangster International Airport.

By increasing the exposure of passengers to the core duty free store, airport operator MBJ Airports Ltd, can achieve a strong return on investment in its existing space.

The airport also has the option to expand the retail space, as part of Phase 2 of the development. Designs can then integrate a further development of the passenger flow that will enable almost every passenger to pass virtually every shop.

Significantly, The Design Solution, has ‘future proofed’ the design principles created for the airport. These can be applied if the airport opts for a single major expansion in the future or several smaller-scale developments.

A strong emphasis on sense of place is evident within the design, reflecting Jamaica’s natural beauty and tourist appeal. The Design Solution said  local elements were a crucial part of the retail offer, with the Coffee and Spice store, for example, expressing global renown for its coffee (including the famous Blue Mountains coffee).


A strong sense of place has been incorporated into the design.


It also indicated that this opens up a fantastic design opportunity whereby natural synergies can be created between the retail offer and  broader terminal space, with the island’s natural beauty a unifying design theme. This not only includes tourist destinations such as the Blue Mountains but the island’s wildlife and relationship with the ocean.

Combining  ‘great looking’ spaces with highly effective planning of how the space works, especially regarding passenger flow, is key to successful design, according to The Design Solution, which indicated the design must draw passengers to key retail spaces like it has at Sangster.

Lastly, the company emphasised the importance of creating “a unique experience of an airport, that is firmly embedded in the country or city they that they serve” As part of this project, passengers at Sangster will, therefore, discover an enhanced retail offer in an engaging environment which is Jamaican in spirit.

Gill added: “Right now we are very active at a number of airports across the Americas and are seeing a surge of airport investment in retail spaces focused on conveying a true sense of location while delivering optimal commercial returns, stretching from Toronto and New York to Rio, Cancun and Bogota among others.

“Developments such as Rio and Cancun demonstrate that the Americas can match the best in the world for retail adventures. As these exciting new developments are launched across this region, the expectations of the passenger will be raised and other airports in the Americas will face increased pressure to raise their game.”

MBJ Airports Ltd CEO Rafael Echevarne added: “Like most airports, we are constantly seeking the optimal commercial return on our investment in our terminals, particularly through driving retail footfall and penetration. We are committed to creating an amazing experience for our passengers and are delighted that The Design Solution has created an adaptable new layout that not only drives our commercial imperatives but delivers a unique and authentic expression of our island.”


Passengers will discover an enhanced retail offer in an engaging environment which is Jamaican in spirit, according to The Design Solution.


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