With the high season for cruise tourism ending, Port St. Maarten issued a positive industry outlook despite what it called “multiple challenges” (see Friday/Saturday edition). Along with the number of calls, also ships’ occupancies have rebounded since the start of this year from around 45 to more than 75 per cent.
The 305,507 passengers hosted during the first four months of 2022 were already more than the 243,450 of the entire prior year when COVID-19 still severely restricted travel. They reportedly spend an average US $750 in port, so people can do the math.
Perhaps more important long-term, six of 10 persons who took a cruise said they have returned to a destination first visited by ship.
That aspect is often overlooked by those who question the value of cruise as high impact but low in earnings because it usually regards day-trippers. Particularly the timeshare and vacation condo sectors heavily cater to these guests, the results of which have been visible for decades.
In fact, more should be done to improve on this so-called “conversion rate” going forward, not by harassing cruisers but – to the contrary – by promoting a pleasant and rewarding experience while here through excellent and friendly service. The latter also helps create the kind of repeat business and customer-loyalty the island’s hospitality industry is truly blessed with, as proven time and again in the wake of various natural or manmade calamities.
Having significant stayover, cruise as well as yachting segments are what make the local economy relatively strong despite having to rely almost exclusively on tourism. In such a way diversity is possible within that single pillar.
The same approach can be used for amplifying source markets and limiting the seasonal nature of the product. This will allow “The Friendly Island” to continue doing what it does best, only do so even better.