Excitement is building for Saturday’s restart of cruise tourism in St. Maarten after a coronavirus-related absence of more than a year. It regards homeporting by the Celebrity Millennium, the first large ship to do so here.
The latter means between 1,000 and 2,000 guests will arrive by plane and in many cases stay on the island a day or two before and/or after the seven-night sailing trip. This translates to business opportunities regarding their transportation, accommodations, meals, etc.
When Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT) Ludmila de Weever said the venture could bring in up to US $52 million she was ridiculed by some. However, one should think not just about what the passengers will spend, but also additional income for Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA), earnings from weekly provisioning and bunkering of the vessel, harbour fees, head tax and other revenues.
Details of the expanded and upgraded homeporting facility at Port St. Maarten (see related story) indicate what a massive operation this is. If done well, it could incite other cruise lines to follow suit, especially should current issues with fully vaccinated cruises out of Florida not get resolved soon.
Doing so remains important for the destination though, because to see a half a dozen or more ships in Great Bay again as used to often be the case will require other major homeports in the Caribbean cruise sector to get back on track too. But for now, an important step on the road to hopefully a strong recovery of the industry has been taken locally and all involved deserve credit for making it happen.