PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - Minister of Tourism and Economic Affairs Mellissa Arrindell-Doncher on Thursday explained that government has negotiated a new agreement with Sunwing Vacations/Airlines which will ensure the continuation of four weekly flights and “we will maintain and even expand that crucial airlift out of the Canadian market.”
“The continuation of our partnership depended a lot on parties meeting each other at a mutually beneficial point where St. Maarten could secure the airlift under a financially feasible arrangement. Sunwing in turn would get a little more support in terms of media and marketing support for the flights,” the Minister explained.
She said Interim Head of the St. Maarten Tourism Bureau Rolando Brison negotiated a proposal with Sunwing that would “commit $325k spread over 2017 and 2018 (a period of 18 months) paid in increments. Sunwing will then match this amount which is why it’s called a matching cooperative marketing plan,” the Minister said, adding that the proposed amount and incremental payment plan has been accepted by all parties involved and it now moves towards finalization by the Council of Ministers.
The strategies that will be outlined in the matching cooperative marketing plan, is designed to help in generating a greater awareness about the island, ultimately stimulating travel to the island. Sunwing currently services the destination with 4 flights weekly. Under the new agreement, parties will build towards re-instating a fifth flight which was pulled last year because of a gloomy economic outlook in the Canadian market. “The extra marketing support should go a long way to negate these factors,” the Minister said.
Canada remains a primary source market for St. Maarten for many years now. The Canadian market is traditionally a charter driven destination to the Caribbean Region. The charter flights touch down in St. Maarten on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays or Sundays. Most Canadians travel to our region for a one week, all-inclusive vacation get away from their bitter freezing cold winters.
Sunwing has a capacity of 189 seats to St. Maarten year-round from Toronto, Montreal during the summer and during the winter the airline adds a flight from Quebec City. In 2015, the island welcomed 44,329 stay over visitors and 57,000 in 2016 from the Canadian market. This amount accounts for 28% increase year over year within the Canadian Market.
In 2016, Sunwing Airlines/Vacations accounted for 50% or 28,347 Canadian visitors to the island. The 2014 Tourism Exist Survey carried out by the Department of Statistics with the support of the Tourism Department, captured the following data regarding the Canadian travelers:
- Average length of stay is 8.8 nights on the Southern Side of the island.
- Average daily expenditure per person is $81.31 with accommodations and food & beverages being the highest items they spent on.
- Average daily expenditure per travel party is $217.22 with accommodations and food & beverage being the highest items they spent on.
- 32% of these visitors to the island accounted for a gross annual household income of US$125K and over.
- 38% of these visitors to the island are married, notable the highest percentage when comparing to the other regions.
Other carriers that service St. Maarten from Canada are; Air Canada, Air Transat, Signature and West Jet. West Jet is the only service operating as scheduled/non-seasonal