Visitor harassment catches attention of cruise industry


PHILIPSBURG–“Take control of this urgent matter ASAP” was the gist of an e-mail sent to business contacts by a representative of the cruise industry about the increased harassment of cruise passengers by “barkers” and vendors while in St. Maarten.

“The last thing we want is Celebrity Cruises putting a warning and telling guests about the harassment on Front Street,” Royal Media Senior Vice President David Mardini said in a recent e-mail to St. Maarten contacts.

Mardini visited St. Maarten last week with fellow Senior Vice President Michael Weil aboard cruise ship Celebrity Silhouette. What they saw and the feedback they received from passengers of that cruise line were not flattering for the island.


Mardini shared that Celebrity Cruises’ Hotel Director has been confronted with mounting complaints about the destination. The hotel director is “very concerned” about guest comments regarding “harassment from various stores on Front Street.” He added that many stores have “barkers in the street chasing and grabbing the guests in the middle of the street.”

The mushrooming cosmetic stores selling beauty treatments have also caught the industry representatives’ attention. Like the barkers – people employed by stores to stand on the street to hand out flyers and lure people into establishments they represent, the cosmetic stores have people on the sidewalks pushing samples to passers-by.

The barkers sometimes try to physically pull people into stores with what they consider friendly persuasion, while the cosmetics people at time try to apply their products to the faces or bodies of passers-by.

“These cosmetic stores are very aggressive with our guests. They’re putting their hands on the guests unannounced and they feel violated,” said the cruise rep.

The cruise rep called for Government and the Indian Merchants Association (IMA) “to please calm down these businesses. We need the stores to be welcoming the guests and thanking them for visiting and supporting St. Maarten.”

The situation in Philipsburg is mirrored in other tourist hotspots on the Dutch side. Primary locations for cruise and stay-over visitor harassment include Maho Beach, Mullet Bay Beach and Kim Sha Beach.

Adding to the visitor harassment mix with the barkers and cosmetic hawkers are taxi drivers screaming out to visitors, and timeshare sellers with scratch-card gimmicks.

Source: The Daily Herald