The Daily Herald – 500,000 air passengers, 1 million cruise passengers expected
May-Ling Chun, director of the Saint-Martin Tourist Office.
PHILIPSBURG – As the world moves closer to normality, St. Maarten is expecting a relatively robust year with some 500,000 air passenger movements expected at Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA) and one million cruise passengers expected at Port Saint-Martin.
St. Maarten Tourism Board director May-Ling Chun provided the numbers during a two-day Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) virtual destinations media briefing, during which 17 Caribbean destinations informed the regional media of the situation of their destination. French St. Martin also provided an update during the forum.
Chun said St. Maarten expects 20-30% growth this year, which translates to about 500,000 passenger movements out of more than 3,400 flights expected at PJIA. “So far, every showing, and we’re still in constant contact with our airport, that they’ve done has been pretty much on the ball,” Chun told the forum. “So we’re very excited to see this result and we’re looking forward to it.”
Additionally, she said, Saint Maarten estimates around one million cruise passengers this year and indicated that the country plans to return to pre-coronavirus COVID-19 levels in 2023.
According to the director of tourism, the country went through difficult times with the 2017 hurricanes and the COVID-19 pandemic. She said 2016 had been a “stellar” year for the country with more than 528,000 arrivals. “The pre-COVID benchmark when we were starting to recover and trending up was 2019 with over 319,000 arrivals,” she said. “We were able to more than double to around 55% of our 2018 stay arrivals and…in 2020 we were on our way to our 2016/2017 numbers when of course in March you see it go down to zero, like everyone else, we had a lockdown.
In 2021, Saint-Martin had more than 248,000 tourists visiting the country and more than 232,519 cruise arrivals, which represents a decrease of 47% compared to previous years. In 2019, the destination welcomed more than 1.6 million cruise passengers, which Chun said “has been a big help to our economy.” North America continues to be St. Maarten’s largest market. She said Friendly Island was fortunate to have many connections from the United States (USA) with all major airlines flying to St. Maarten. These include American Airlines, Delta, Frontier, Jet Blue, United and Spirit. “There were a lot of people at the airport,” she said, noting that PJIA’s reconstruction has begun and is expected to be completed by the end of 2023.
Regarding homeporting, she said it has helped the country a lot with ships such as the star flyer, Windsurf, star legend, MSC sea view and Seabourn’s Odyssey homeporting in 2021 and still doing so currently. Homeporting, she added, accounts for almost 11,000 passengers (10,772), 28% of whom stay in hotels before or after the cruise.
Chun also gave an update on what’s new on St. Maarten during which she highlighted a number of activities and personalities, including the Mighty Dow, Denicio Wyatte, Heineken Regatta, SXM Festival, Moko Jumbie Festival and the carnival of Saint-Martin. She also alluded to Divi Little Bay Beach Resort opening the acquisition of Diamond Resorts by Ocean’s and Hilton Grand Vacations.
Oceans is an exclusive 98-room Caribbean oasis located within the Divi Little Bay Beach Resort and is nestled right next to the resort’s expansive Pureocean Pool and Bar. The Oceans brand is said to offer a next-level level of service and ambience with upgraded room amenities like plush bathrobes and comfy slippers, VIP check-in, personal concierge services, room-only or all-in-one options. included, and special touches to make every Oceans guest feel pampered from the moment they arrive, Divi says on its website.