Monday’s meeting of Parliament’s Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT) Committee with representatives of Port St. Maarten and the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) is most welcome (see related story). For starters, it offers the chance to get an explanation on the state of the island’s cruise sector and its current competitive position.
It’s no secret that other countries in the region are working hard to attract more ships, while the opening of Cuba too could have an impact sooner than many may realise. The industry itself has benefitted from low fuel prices in recent times, but there are significant challenges too.
These include destinations providing sufficient interesting and/or enjoyable activities for the passengers, preferably also some “new” ones every so often. This is among the expected benefits from, for example, the much-discussed Rainforest Adventure Park being built at Emilio Wilson Estate.
Especially tours are important so the cruise lines can sell them on board and receive a commission, because they are forced to offer the basically all-inclusive (except for alcoholic beverages) boat trips at favourable rates to fill the cabins. Over the years plenty of such ventures have been created locally and this is where most related business opportunities exist.
Perhaps it also might be possible to get an update on the Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines (RCCL) project at the harbour as well as the development that is supposed to replace the botched Zebec deal. Little has been heard lately of these and other initiatives that would target cruise visitors, so confirmation that they are still on schedule could help reassure the public a bit.
It must be said, the cruise companies have shown commitment to “The Friendly Island” by participating in the port’s financing schemes, but care must be taken to continue fostering this special relationship, for while there is often talk about the need to diversify the economy, of great immediate concern is to keep all three existing segments of the local hospitality product – stay-over, cruise and yachting tourism – healthy and strong.
Source: Daily Herald
Healthy and strong