St. Maarten serves as yardstick for Bahamas

PORT–Destination St. Maarten, in spite of Hurricane Irma and her aftermath, still remains a benchmark for the region’s cruise industry. This was demonstrated over the weekend when two government ministers from the Bahamas visited the country to learn about the ways St. Maarten tackles passenger distribution.

Bahamian Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar and Minister of Transportation and Local Government Frankie Campbell were advised by cruise line executives to research and study the St. Maarten model as a guide to how to handle their islands’ cruise passenger flow.

The Bahamas received some three million cruisers annually and has been encountering tremendous bottlenecks with passenger movement. St. Maarten, in comparison, receives about a million less passengers, but its small size has made it paramount to have effective passenger flow management. Aside from the recent roadworks into and out of Pointe Blanche, passenger movement is relatively seamless in St. Maarten.

Tourism and Economic Affairs Minister Cornelius de Weever and Port St. Maarten officials met with the Bahamas visitors and cruise executives Israel Giora and Marie McKenzie (Carnival Corporation), Roberto Fusaro and Albino di Lorenzo (MSC Lines) and Russel Benford (Royal Caribbean Cruise Line).

De Weever said it was good to see that even after the trials of Irma the destination is still holding its own in the region and continues to be a leader in the cruise industry.
However, this does not mean the destination and all stakeholders should become lax. Rather, this attention should serve as momentum for more progress, he said. “Our island is very unique, and we must do everything humanly possible to keep improving our services.”
Caribbean-wise, De Weever said, “It is important that we develop as a region and continue to attract more tourists. We are not competing, but complementing each other.” Sharing of experiences and best practices among destinations enhances the cruise and tourism product throughout the region.

This was not the first time St. Maarten has been used as a benchmark by other cruise destinations in the region. Several other delegations have visited the destination in the past to hold talks with Port and Government officials about the country’s cruise successes and pitfalls.

Port management shared with the visitors the importance of a good relationship and open communication with local stakeholders. These, they said, are pivotal to the overall success of the country’s cruise product and passenger circulation.

The visit also presented an opportunity for De Weever and the Port to showcase progress made in the almost seven months since Irma hit the country. They highlighted recovery in the shopping areas, tour experiences and other amenities for cruise passengers.
The cruise executives commended local officials on the country’s recovery and efforts made to improve the experience of cruise passengers and cruise partners. They pointed out the importance of frequent progress and development meetings between cruise lines, Port St. Maarten and other officials, as well as continuous communication through the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA).

St. Maarten remains a key destination on Eastern Caribbean cruise itineraries, the cruise executives said, adding that as partners they will continue to support the destination’s rebound.

Source: The Daily Herald