That the largest cruise ship in the world is scheduled to visit in two weeks (see related story) once again confirms the strong position of Port St. Maarten Group (PSG) in the regional industry. Icon of the Seas owned by Royal Caribbean International (RCI) has a capacity of 5,610 passengers at double occupancy and 2,350 crew.
Three other ships are expected to call on February 13, making for an undoubtedly busy day for local tours, the Philipsburg shopping area, beaches and attractions. As a matter of fact today, Wednesday, will see no fewer than seven in port.
Nevertheless, the general trend seems to be not necessarily more calls but bigger vessels. A downside is that these offer so much onboard that fewer people may disembark.
This is not a development destinations have much control over. Various cruise lines even create their own on a separate island or peninsula so they have better control too, although certainly not all cruisers approve of such. RCI itself plans to build a water park next to the harbour in Great Bay.
Something similar has been happening in stay-over tourism, where an increasing number of local hotels turned all-inclusive. That obviously hurts businesses outside the resorts, but is understandable also due to the impact of short-term vacation rental platforms on the holiday accommodation market.
When it comes to cruise passengers, enhanced destination promotion inside ships where possible might be an alternative. In addition, getting more of those who do visit the island to return on aircraft for a longer stay, the so-called conversion rate, should be a greater priority than ever.