Jamaica’s busiest international gateway, Sangster Airport, which serves resorts in and around Montego Bay, has been given a substantial retail face-lift that will soon include the first Bob Marley-branded restaurant anywhere in the world.
The dining experience—called Bob Marley – One Love (after the 1984 hit, a re-recording of the 1965 Wailing Wailers single)—is scheduled to open in the first quarter of next year and is expected to be a major draw. It will only be accessible to airside passengers in the departures lounge.
According to the airport operator, MBJ Airports Limited, the restaurant is “currently exclusive to Sangster International with a scheduled opening date of February 2023.” This suggests that more Bob Marley-branded restaurants are in the pipeline, most likely set to open in other Caribbean destinations and the United States.
At Sangster International, Bob Marley – One Love will be operated by Express Catering Limited (ECL), a listed subsidiary of Margaritaville Caribbean Group (MCG) which owns and operates a string of Jimmy Buffet Margaritaville food, beverage, retail and entertainment units in the Caribbean. Margaritaville was the singer-songwriter’s highest-charting hit.
In September, in an interim report on its quarterly results to August 2022, ECL’s CEO Ian Dear was optimistic about the tourism rebound at Sangster Airport and said that the winter season “promised to be the biggest since Covid-19.” In the three months to August, ECL generated revenue of almost $5 million. That should be boosted by the current passenger growth at the airport, plus “the Bob Marley effect” from next February.
In Rolling Stone’s 1981 obituary, reggae superstar Marley was described as “one of the most influential music figures in the last 20 years.” In February 2020, the magazine republished the singer-songwriter’s 50 greatest tracks to commemorate what would have been his 75th birthday.
Retail goes to a new level
The retail and dining space at Jamaica’s Sangster International Airport has been a long time coming. Planning for the departures expansion began in 2017 but the pandemic put the brakes on it. London-based The Design Solution took on the gateway’s commercial planning strategy and, together with consulting group Pragma, it was also instrumental in the redevelopment of the retail program to bring it up to international standards.
The Bob Marley – One Love restaurant is a key part of the transformation strategy to deliver “a memorable and stimulating experience” for passengers. In total, the departures revamp covers 43,000 square feet, of which 14,000 square feet is dedicated to a large walk-through duty-free store operated by global travel retailer Dufry. More than a dozen local retail operators are also present.
The centerpiece of the space is a 40-foot-high rotunda with a floor-to-ceiling curtain wall that creates the focal point of the newly developed food court with a palm tree-inspired bar and wrap-around LED screens.