Ludmila de Weever
PHILIPSBURG–St. Maarten can expect to have an “amazing,” summer this year, Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT) Minister Ludmila de Weever said on Wednesday.
She said occupancy levels have gone up to 100 per cent, and she urged the community to prepare for homeporting, a first for St. Maarten, which starts as of June 5.
In giving an insight into arrival numbers, De Weever said St. Maarten reached its maximum number of arrivals during the last week of 2020, when 7,553 passengers were received, many of whom went on to yachts and to St Barths. So far for this year, the highest level seen to date is 6,634 passengers during week 18.
“What that says is that we can expect an amazing summer because we have new airlines coming, one of which is Frontier. We have additional flights coming in from American [Airlines – Ed.] as was announced weeks ago with Dallas. We have more flights coming in from Delta, from United, so all in all it is looking like a really positive time and good year,” De Weever said during the live Council of Ministers press briefing.
“What that leads into is the home porting and since January I started this discussion with Joshua Carol of the Royal Caribbean Group. Since that discussion started this is where we are today. We are about 23 days away from June 5, which is the sale date for Celebrity Cruises, which is part of the Royal Caribbean Group. This was not easy. This was a lot of dialogue building back confidence in St. Maarten – in our product – but this is where dialogue goes a long way, cooperation, long-standing relationships, and for that I am extremely grateful. This is why we are able to do a roll-out with Carrefour [Market – Ed.], this is why we can do a vaccination drive with the assistance of Celebrity Cruises medical crew, as well as Royal Caribbean medical crew. This is why they have actually brought our occupancy levels at hotels up to 100 per cent. This is all the hard work that I have been working on with my colleagues, with the people in the ministry since the end of January.”
According to the minister, in September 2020, the VROMI, Justice and TEATT Ministries toured Philipsburg to assess parking, sidewalks, the boardwalk, and the beach. “We have been warning vendors since September and October of last year to clean up the beach. We are 23 days away from home port. This is something we have never had in St. Maarten before. This is going to bring a lot of economic activity. We have to recognise it for the benefit it will bring to us,” she stressed.
She said cruise is expected to resume as of June 5, with overnight stays in hotels, and this is what St. Maarten needs to prepare for. “I just want to remind the vendors again… there are still broken chairs on the beach." Additional dialogue will be held with the Minister of Justice and VROMI to basically get the approval for us to remove any debris so that our island is properly ready to receive a major homeport, which is Celebrity Cruises’ Millennium on June 5.”