Coming out of two years of Covid-19, approximately, one million passengers will descend on Philipsburg St Martin during the upcoming cruise ship season, based on the cruise line itineraries for November 2022 to April 2023.
Acting Tourism Minister Omar Ottley said, “it gives extreme pleasure to say we are back. While we may have an opportunity to reach or even surpass our pre-COVID numbers, we cannot become complacent. The goal is to constantly increase our tourism product until we are ranked the number one cruise destination.”
Ottley added that the plan is to diversify the country’s tourism product and focus on cultural heritage.
“Once we can highlight what makes us unique it becomes our job to share that uniqueness with the rest of the world.”
Meanwhile, PSG Chief Executive Officer Alexander Gumbs said cruise passengers are now spending more, and this ogre well for the destination.
“Based on the passenger arrival forecast, more than 133,000 visitors are expected in November 2022, 196,000 December 2022, and for the start of the new year, close to a quarter of a million passengers – 230,000 January 2023, followed by 157,000 February 2023, 159,000 March 2023 and 142,000 in April 2023.”
Although those numbers look good, they are still below per-pandemic levels.
This could be because several ships/equipment were sold during the pandemic, which severely impacted the tourism sector.
“The great news is that new-built ships are moving ahead, and several are being launched on an annual basis. The hopes are that in the coming year or two the Caribbean summer months will normalize once again to per-pandemic levels,” Gumbs said.
While St Martin is popular among passengers, more regions are becoming competitive.
“There’s work for us to do to continue to differentiate our offerings and services from the other destinations in the Caribbean. We are also reliant on those destinations to continue to enhance their offerings as well, as an itinerary is ideally based on a few great destinations and not just one,” Ottley noted.
The island will now have seven cruise line brands home-port from Port St. Maarten this season, the most to date.