Some much-needed good news regarding St. Maarten’s economy is reported in today’s edition. The final two weeks of July will see six cruise calls, while one of the ships is scheduled to start homeporting later this year.
Philipsburg Promotional Board (PPB) submitted a 37-point “wish list” of improvements for the downtown shopping and beach area (see Monday paper), some of which can be implemented short-term while others will obviously take a bit longer. Not all depend on government, as, for example, building- and/or store-owners are asked to direct the water coming from their air-conditioning units to drain fields in the ground instead of onto the road.
For now, the destination will have to make the best of it, whereby quality service can play a big role. The main thing is for disembarking passengers to have an enjoyable experience.
Stayover figures look promising too, as the second quarter of this year recorded an average room occupancy of 51.4 per cent, compared to 71.9 per cent over the same period in pre-pandemic 2019 and 66.4 per cent in pre-Hurricane Irma 2017. For June 2021, the rate was 51.3 per cent compared to respectively 76.7 and 70.2 per cent.
This translates to a recovery of about a two-thirds during the past three months, with indications that July may have started even better. Despite extremely difficult current circumstances, the island must be ready to benefit from pent-up travel demand as more people go on holiday also due to a higher vaccination degree.
In that sense the announcement that a main contractor has been selected for the reconstruction of Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA) is most welcome with the future in mind. Not being privy to details of the bidding procedure, one would say the choice for Ballast Nedam inspires confidence because it built the damaged facility in the first place, while the Dutch company’s proposal “also illustrated their commitment to the local market with a high local participation and content,” according to operating company PJIAE.
These are unmistakably positive signs that the process of restoring the people’s livelihood is well underway. Ensuring that it can be completed successfully, just like tourism itself, is everybody’s business.