With all that’s going on, the significance of Sunday’s inaugural weekly flight of XL Airways should not be overlooked. The plane from Paris had 250 seats for passengers boarding Pullmantur’s Zenith for a Caribbean cruise from the harbour at Pointe Blanche.
It regards the first serious attempt at large-scale “home-porting” by St. Maarten for a vessel that can carry 1,500 passengers, after experimenting with small ships of up to 500. A special terminal was built to handle the bigger volume that by all accounts withstood the test.
The idea is to focus on luxury brands that will promote quality tourism. In addition, it involves mostly Europeans, which contributes to diversifying the destination’s source market.
The activity can even assist in realising more airlift if successful. With Princess Juliana International Airport SXM working on US Customs and Immigration pre-clearance, a seamless travel/cruise experience probably would stimulate connectivity and attract new business.
The passengers have some time on the island before boarding the ship and following their return, which may help bring many of them back as future stay-over guests. There are obviously several other direct financial and economic gains too.
With cruise lines increasingly choosing for the “all-inclusive” concept by using private islands for stops to also collect on-shore revenues, home-porting could prove an effective way to compensate for such losses.
Granted, Sunday was just a start, but in any case meaningful one.
Friday’s editorial stated that the installation of a new Government comes “none too soon, because the three current Ministers voted into Parliament may only occupy both functions for three months, which in this case means until Christmas.” However, while the election was September 26, the legal three-month period only begins once the new parliamentarians are sworn in, so the actual deadline would be at the end of January. The Daily Herald apologises for the error.