The OrlandoSanford International Airport is in the midst of a growth spurt, as it embarks on a $44 million expansion and adds its first on-site hotel.

A four-story Hampton Inn by Hilton will be built on the south side of the airport, while a three-year expansion will include a new entrance and more gates and baggage carousels.

The airport had experienced tremendous growth since 1995 when 48,000 passengers passed through its gates. Last year, it handled more than 2.5 million passengers, an increase of about 300,000 from 2015.

“There’s an evolution taking place at the airport, as we expand for additional growth to meet the needs of our current and future passengers,” said Diane Crews, the airport’s president and CEO.

Crews said more people are discovering the Sanford airport and how easy and convenient it is to use. The airport markets itself as “simpler, faster and better,” using the initials of its SFB aviation code, as a comparison to the Orlando International Airport, which served nearly 42 million passengers last year.

She also pointed to the improved economy and the airport’s increasing destinations as reasons for the growth. The airport’s seven carriers fly to 77 cities in the United States in addition to Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Guyana, Suriname, The Netherlands, Belgium and England.

Construction on the 110-room hotel off East Airport Boulevard will begin in May. It will be the first hotel built on airport property.

The expansion will add four new gates, bringing the total to 16. Three new baggage carousels and more security lanes will ensure faster passenger boarding and arrivals. The airport’s front exterior will be improved and traffic lanes rerouted to make it easier for motorists to drop off or pick up passengers.

Construction on the expansion will begin this summer.

About 80 percent of the expansion will be paid for with revenue from passenger-facility charges, a $4.50 fee added to every ticket into and out of the airport. The remainder will be split between the Sanford Airport Authority and the Florida Department of Transportation.

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