The Central Bank of Curaçao and St. Maarten (CBCS) says economic recovery continues despite raging inflation (see Wednesday paper), which is obviously good news. They expect real gross domestic product (GDP) to increase by respectively 5.5% and 5.8% this year in the two countries of the monetary union.
This will moderate to 2.9% for Curaçao and 3.6% for St. Maarten in 2023, according to the bank’s current forecast. Most of the expansion, respectively 19.0% and 19.9%, occurred in the traditional high season from January thru March.
During the second quarter this trend continued particularly in Curaçao where stayover arrivals even surpassed those of pre-pandemic 2019 and the 2022 growth rate was consequently adjusted upwards by 0.3% from June, while St. Maarten experienced a levelling-off that led to a downward adjustment of 0.4%. The outlook for next year has been moderated for both countries by respectively 0.1% and 0.3%.
The message for St. Maarten is clear. A concerted effort must take place to attract more visitors even under difficult market conditions due to, among other things, the war in Ukraine and its global impact.
Acting Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT) Omar Ottley says he is working on bringing in another cruise line and was assured that airlift from the destination’s main North American hubs will be maintained although some US carriers have scheduled flight reductions. Government and the private sector are also partnering on an Expedia campaign to drive bookings.
However, except for that and restoring promotion contracts targeting the so-called Benelux (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxemburg), little has been heard about what else is being done to actively stimulate the still vulnerable local tourism economy. Several competing destinations in the region recently announced adding major aviation connections, the opening of new source markets, etc.
It might sound a bit simplistic, but if one talks to people in the dominant hospitality industry many would agree that “The Friendly Island” could stand to make some noise and get noticed.