No such thing

No such thing

It was nice to receive some more tourism figures (see related story), in this case from the Department of Statistics STAT. They indicated 395,053 stay-over arrivals last year, up 6.9% compared to 2022.

That was not reflected in recent room occupancy rates released by St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA), which remained practically the same. The difference can be attributed at least somewhat to an increase in private short-term vacation rental accommodations, often using relevant online platforms.
So more guests did fly to the destination, surpassing pre-pandemic 2019 numbers by 24%, although the yardstick 2016 level before Hurricane Irma has not yet been reached. That record of 528,153 is expected to be equalled in the coming years.

Interesting was the breakdown per region, showing that North America continues to be the dominant source market with shares of 63% in 2016, 61% in 2019, 68% in 2021, 66% in 2022 and 67% in 2023.

Europe is second with respectively 27, 29, 26, 26 and 24%. These are followed at some distance by the Caribbean with 4, 3, 2, 3 and 3%, South America with 3, 2, 1, 1 and 2%, and “rest of the world” with 4, 4, 3, 4 and 4%.

It seems obvious that diversifying the country’s market to make it less vulnerable to external shocks is highly desirable and should be a major priority. Especially Latin America offers great potential, also because travel originating there is not linked to the traditionally busy winter period in the northern hemisphere.

Getting additional business out of that area is thus important to reduce the seasonal nature of the local economy, which creates a myriad of social issues. Direct airlift remains limited, but there are several flights per week from Panama City and connections via, for example, the Dominican Republic, Curaçao and Miami. Of course, booking better results will require investment and SHTA has a point when referring to the relatively low promotion and marketing budget. Let’s face it, there is no such thing as a free lunch.

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