PORT ST. MAARTEN – Port St. Maarten is expected to see a shift in the cruise market by receiving overall 10.6 per cent less cruise calls for the period November 1, 2019 to April 30, 2020 when compared with figures for the same period in 2018-2019.
For the same period, Port St. Maarten anticipates 416 cruise calls (November 1, 2019 to April 30, 2020) with approximately 1,049,419 cruise passengers compared to 466 cruise calls (November 1, 2018 to April 30, 2019) and 1,239,707 cruise passengers.
Port St. Maarten will be embarking on new investment plans within the short and long-term, and these will be presented at the upcoming Florida-Caribbean Cruise Conference (FCCA) & Exhibition in October in Puerto Rico with the primary focus of getting additional business in 2020 and beyond.
Within the next 24-months, Port St. Maarten will finance out of its own cashflow the construction of a replica historical ship in the main cruise area; a small replica of the salt pond; a heritage wall; and introducing more green spaces. This is to further enhance the guest passenger experience at the port since the cruise terminal is the last place they encounter before boarding their vessel.
Plans are being prepared to construct a permanent homeporting terminal to cater to the Fly & Cruise passenger which will enhance the experience of guests who arrive on the island to board a vessel for a one-week cruise. Homeporting is very important for the local economy as it generates more airlifts in and out of the destination; brings additional business for local service providers; and creates the potential for pre- and post- cruise extension visits.
Under the build back better principle, cruise pier south will be further strengthened to handle the increase in storm activity as well as their ferocity that they inflict on infrastructure.
The port will also fund the repairs to the inter-island berth and RoRo pier; construction of an additional reefer plug-in points which will further stimulate transshipment cargo to islands within the North eastern Caribbean.
For the long-term, 20-25 year period, the port will issue a ‘request for proposal’ with the aim to realize the long-term strategic goals of attracting a strategic partner which could comprise of private port operators or a cruise line(s), and such a partnership would bring additional strategic expertise and capital leading to mutual benefits for the port and the country overall.
“Despite facing competitors, emerging new markets in addition to changes in travel trends of cruisers, destination St. Maarten still has the highest guest satisfaction rates which in the end is still the single most important business driver for the island.
“For 2019, the cruise passenger destination experience score of 9.3 out of 10 is testament to the hard work and dedication from partners in the hospitality industry on St. Maarten which has resulted in a welcomed increase in positive reviews from cruise passengers.
“Shoreside and port experiences are the focal points of the industry with destinations striving to create experiences that really engage guests with a destination’s heritage, culture, people, food and much more all authentic experiences. The ports investment plans cater to these key focal points.
“Port St. Maarten is looking at quality rather than quantity based on on-going shifts in cruise trends and developments. The port will continue to be proactive in making sure that there isn’t anything that would diminish the guest experience. Sustainable tourism and how ships and ports should adapt for a greener future, preparing for the cruise terminal of the future is the buzz in the industry and fits into the investment plans of the port.
“According to Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), one of the trends is conscious travel. This entails travelers wanting to see the world in a conscious, mindful way, and this is forcing cruise lines to work with local destinations to local cultures, landmarks and minimize environmental footprints,” Port St. Maarten Management said on Monday.
Another trend pointed out by CLIA is ‘access is the new luxury.’ Travelers are setting sights on destinations that were previously out of reach – some only accessible now by cruise ship – from the Galapagos Islands to Antarctica.
Generation Z (those born in the mid-1990s to early 2000s) at Sea is another trend where this generation is set to become the largest consumer generation by the year 2020 – outpacing even Millennials. This generation like the one before, prefers experiences over material items and is seeking out travel. The appeal of multiple destinations and unique experiences, such as music festivals at sea, is attracting this new category of cruisers.