PORT ST. MAARTEN – Port St. Maarten Management is resolute in ensuring that the destination maintains its relevance in the ever-challenging cruise tourism market, and therefore has partnered with Ernst & Young (EY) Advisory Services, a reputable and global leader in their field to develop a ‘Port St. Maarten National Development Plan 2020+’ that would cover the 2020 decade and beyond.
During a recent kick-off session with representatives from EY on January 14, the main objective according to Port Management when it elaborated on its visions and goals with EY, is working holistically and ensuring that all stakeholders are part of the 2020+ future success of the cruise destination.
St. Maarten continues to remain at the forefront of the cruise market in the North Eastern Caribbean based on maintaining more than one million cruise passengers annually for the past 17-years – since 2002.
In 2005 the destination catered to 1,488,461 cruise passengers; and every five-year period, thereafter, has received over 1.5 million cruise passengers annually, 2010 – 1,512,618; 2015 – 1,901,617, with the exception of 2017 the year of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
The destinations ‘wow’ factor needs to be addressed even though the destination ranks high in passenger experience where tours are concerned, Port St. Maarten Management pointed out.
“The private sector plays a key role in the future development of the destination’s cruise tourism sector and therefore has the power to turn things around while the role of government is to facilitate the private sector besides its responsibilities for infrastructure etc.
“We have been told in the past that a lot of destinations had emulated the St. Maarten success besides developing their own niches. Cruise lines have reinvented themselves by offering new products and services onboard besides setting up their own cruise destinations.
“The destination needs to re-invent itself for the new decade and beyond, and we have partnered with EY and BDO Sint Maarten to assist with this process,” Port Management pointed out.
BDO Sint Maarten has played an instrumental role in assisting Port St. Maarten in selecting the partner to assist with creating its high-level strategic development plan.
“We will continue to be the sparring partner on various subjects in line with the strategic agenda of Port St. Maarten,” said Paul Lungu (Managing Director BDO Sint Maarten). BDO recently announced global revenues of $9.6 billion, being represented in 167 countries and territories and employing more than 88,000 professionals.
Vernon Huerta, Partner/Advisory Services at EY Dutch Caribbean, stated that EY will assist Port St. Maarten in identifying, investigating and proposing one or more high level strategies for the further development of the cruise and cargo activities at the port. The current planning is to have the strategic plan including an implementation roadmap ready by the end of June.
Within the next 24-months already, Port St. Maarten will finance out of its own cashflow a small replica of the salt pond; a heritage wall; and introducing more green spaces. This is to further enhance the guest passenger experience at the port since the cruise terminal is the last place they encounter before boarding their vessel.
Plans are being prepared to construct a permanent homeporting terminal to cater to the Fly & Cruise passenger which will enhance the experience of guests who arrive on the island to board a vessel for a one-week cruise.
Under the build back better principle, cruise pier south will be further strengthened to handle the increase in storm activity as well as their ferocity that they inflict on infrastructure.
“Despite facing competitors, emerging new markets in addition to changes in travel trends of cruisers, destination St. Maarten still has the highest guest satisfaction rates which in the end is still the single most important business driver for the island. We need to stimulate destination ambassadors in order to maintain and grow these already high numbers of satisfaction.
“Other areas that need to be addressed are, the carrying capacity of the island which links to existing infrastructure as well as the distribution model of passengers.
“Stimulating entrepreneurship is key to enhancing the product mix by involving new and innovative entrepreneurs/people and opportunities with talent and passion. By understanding your passenger’s demographics, one is able to develop authentic experiences for guests, therefore understanding the business model of tours is essential.
“For the future success of cruise, the strategic plan to be developed will include the stakeholders. It is very important as a destination, that we take a holistic approach in moving forward together in 2020. We need everyone to be part of the success.
“The cruise lines have identified one trend as being destination stewardship. With increased demand and growth in the cruise industry, comes responsibility to foster respect and cooperation with the places cruise lines visit.
“In collaboration with local communities, according to the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) in its 2020 Cruise Industry Outlook, the cruise industry is exploring new and creative ways to manage the flow of visitors and implement the highest standards of responsible tourism.
“The five areas identified by the cruise industry in its industry outlook are: partnerships with local governments; staggered arrivals and departures; excursion diversification; shoreside power; and local passenger spending. Destination St. Maarten has a lot to offer, but we need to be innovative and enhancing our tours and offering authentic experiences. Together we can accomplish more than we have ever envisioned and 2020+ holds much opportunities for the local cruise sector,” Port St. Maarten Management said on Tuesday.
Additional trends according to CLIA in 2020 are: cruise and stay, 65 per cent of cruise passengers spend a few extra days at embarkation or debarkation ports; the plastic-free passenger, more than eight of 10 cruise passengers recycle and reduce using single-use plastics while traveling, and seven out of 10 cruisers forego plastic straws; generation cruise positive, more than 66 per cent of Generation X and 71 per cent of Millennials have a more positive attitude about cruising compared to two years ago; lone cruisers, cruise lines are responding to a shift in passenger demographics by offering studio cabins, single-friendly activities, eliminating single supplements and solo-lounges; micro travel, where many cruise lines offer bite-sized cruises over a three-to-five day period offering incredible itineraries and travel to exciting destinations.