SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - During the period March 4th to 9th, 2018, Board member of the St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce & Industry (COCI) Friday and Executive Director Anastacio Baker of COCI, attended the Seatrade Cruise Global in Fort Lauderdale (Conference), according to a press release from COCI on Wednesday.
“It concerned the cruise industry’s most expanded event, bringing together cruise stakeholders from around the world. This year there were approximately 11,000 participants, which included cruise line executives, cruise destinations representatives, suppliers, travelers and journalists from around the world.
“St. Maarten once more attended with a very strong delegation, which consisted of Port of St. Maarten, SXM Airport, COCI, TEATT ministry, St. Maarten Tourist bureau, Toppers Rum and The St. Martin tourist office. The joined rebranding efforts to the cruise community, was focused on the theme communicating that St. Maarten is open for business and inviting all to come rediscover the “Friendly Island.”
“According to Valentina Pietropaolo of MSC, the strong rebranding efforts and the strong delegation at this conference by St. Maarten sent a clear message that St. Maarten is open for business and is serious about its brand. St. Maarten was branded and mentioned in most cruise magazines, as well as in the leading cruise magazine Porthole Cruise, whose representatives were also present at the Conference.
“At the Conference, Porthole Cruise magazine representatives distributed over 10,000 copies of this edition which futured St. Maarten. The entire back cover of the magazine was branded “Come and rediscover St. Maarten, the Friendly Island. We are open for business and building back better.” This feature was sponsored by the Port St. Maarten, St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce and St. Maarten Tourist office. Another much talked about rebranding concept was that St. Maarten was branded on all the key cards at the Hilton hotel, which was one of the major hotels that hosted most of the participants.
“Mico Cascais mentioned in an article in the Travel & Cruise magazine first quarter 2018 that “St. Maarten’s return to prominence and lessons for other Cruise destinations” to follow. “St. Maarten was always a go- to reference when often asked, what destination does it right?” “The sense of unity and collaboration was palpable and visible, with tour operators laying down bricks on Front Street and dozens of stakeholders organizing clean ups. These were many working as one, which continues today.”
“Cascais concluded by mentioning in this article that he is truly excited for the people of St. Maarten and the Port of St. Maarten; “they have the right momentum needed to capitalize on the industry growth. The activation of citizens as destination ambassadors, along with their stories and the new and improved experiences will continue to keep St. Maarten as a leading destination of choice in the Caribbean. He urges other destinations to consider this story and the stories they can tell when considering how to build momentum of their own.”
“During the workshop sessions at the Conference, it was mentioned that bookings for cruises in the Caribbean had fallen sharply after the passing of the hurricanes. However, by end October/early November 2017, bookings had returned to the same level where they had been before the devastating hurricanes.
“Another point worth mentioning is that family travel is a 500 billion dollar industry and bookings amongst families has increased by 26%. This is a trend that we as destination St. Maarten must adjust to, to fulfill the needs of the family travelers. Mr. Gordon Ho of Princess cruises mentioned during a panel discussion that they are modifying the cabin room design in order to accommodate families at a reasonable price.
“It is common for families to travel with a party of four which occupies a standard room, however, when the family consists of a mother and father and 3 or 4 children, that gets a bit complicated. Meaning they would need 2 rooms and a parent would be in one room while the other parent is in the other. Bonnie Levengood of MSC cruises mentioned that they too have been adjusting the trend of family vacations and because MSC cruise line is a family owned business, the children of the owners decided what activities go on the ships such as a go cart race tracks, zip lining and wild swimming pool shoot slides.
“St. Maarten is on the right track in terms of bouncing back after a natural disaster. The collaboration efforts between COCI and all stakeholders on our quest to let the world know we are open for business was heard and seen last October at the FCCA conference in Mexico and last week at the Conference in Fort Lauderdale. It is very important that each business owner continuously train and educate their staff on the importance of providing the best service to each customer that enters their establishment or make use of their services.
“We cannot become complacent as there are other destinations that are working tirelessly to gain the edge on St. Maarten. The fact that more families are travelling together, we as a country, should position ourselves to maximize on this noticeable trend by exploring investment possibilities in family fun activities.
“As COCI, we will continue to do our part by contribution towards the economic development of St. Maarten, however it is up to all of us to ensure that once travelers return to our shores, that their experience with us is second to none and that they would return yearly,” the COCI press release concludes.