UTRECHT – Representatives of Port St. Maarten are currently in the Netherlands to participate in the Vakantiebeurs (Holiday Expo) at the convention center in Utrecht. The expo opens today and continues until Sunday.
Destination St. Maarten has been absent from this tradeshow for several years resulting in a low brand awareness of the country in the Dutch market.
The Vakantiebeurs caters to business to business and business to consumers. More Dutch travelers are becoming aware of cruises, and the St. Maarten cruise brand is the largest and most developed cruise port in the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
In 2014, approximately 109,000 Dutch travelers took a cruise. The proximity of Belgium and Luxemburg to the Netherlands also allows travelers from those countries to visit the expo. These countries represented 77,000 cruise travelers in 2014. Between 2010 and 2014, cruise travelers in the Benelux increased by 11.5 percent.
Port St. Maarten management says its presence at the Vakantiebeurs is important to increase airlift to the country which would benefit the development of the cruise homeporting business. This would have an overall economic spin-off for various businesses such as hotels, restaurants, jewelry and electronics stores, nightclubs, taxi’s and car rentals because cruise passengers would spend two days on the island before boarding the cruise ship to take their cruise and another two days after the ship returns.
This year’s theme is, ‘You’d swear you’re there already.’ Visitors can win an all-inclusive vacation to St. Maarten for two people in a raffle. TUI Travel provides the trip. The German cruise vessel Mein Schiff 3, owned by TUI Cruises, is visiting St. Maarten for this cruise season.
According to data from Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), 6.3 million Europeans took a cruise in 2014. In 2014, approximately 1.5 millio European travelers took a cruise to the Caribbean.
Port St. Maarten has partnered with Caribbean Luxury Club in a promotional booth at the Vakantiebeurs. This expo fits into the port’s destination strategy to infiltrate the European Union tourist market.
The Ministry of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Telecommunication and Transport and the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau are also at the expo and they are part of the destination booth.
In 2015, the Vakantiebeurs attracted 117,063 visitors; 62 per cent of the visitors sought holiday information from five areas around the globe including the Caribbean. There were also 1,259 participating businesses from 166 countries.
The five main reasons for consumers visiting the expo in 2015 were: to find information before booking a holiday 71 per cent; a fun day out 45 per cent; select a holiday destination 27 per cent; find information about a planned/booked holiday 20 per cent; and book a holiday five per cent.
The number of professional visitors that visited the expo in 2015 were 18,869. They were interested in the following: keeping up to date with developments in the sector 69 per cent; meeting colleagues from the sector 65 per cent; meeting existing contacts 58 per cent; making new contacts 48 per cent; and attending program activities 27 per cent.
Port St. Maarten management says the survey results indicate a demand for destination information, and that it is essential to have a presence at such events to keep the island profiled in the competitive tourism and travel market.
The second important aspect of having a presence is the contact with tourism and cruise oriented businesses and tour operators who would like to be kept abreast of what is happening at different destinations.
A CLIA study revealed that there was a shift in Dutch cruise travelers from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean in 2014, making the Caribbean area as a third choice out of Mediterranean/Black Sea followed by Northern Europe. The number of Dutch cruise travelers to the Caribbean in 2014 was 16,000.
“This once again shows that destination marketing is essential and the statistics show that the interest is there and the travelers have booked cruises to come to the region.
“Stay-over tourism is a main component of the country’s tourism industry and is linked to our port activities. Without stay-over visitors, the cargo business at the port will be different. It is up to us to sustain this and continue to grow. That is why we are investing in our future by attending this expo,” Port St. Maarten Management pointed out.