The return of Carnival Cruise Line following a 19-month absence (see related story) is another significant step in restoring the local tourism economy. With a total of some 125 calls including the resumption of MSC Cruises and others expected in the fourth quarter, that process appears to be well underway.
A point of concern has been the relatively low number of passengers on most ships sailing commercially again until now, due to COVID-19 limits and safety measures, hesitancy to travel and restrictions on movement in several ports. The industry is currently working to increase its average occupancy to at least 65 per cent so it becomes more worthwhile for all involved.
While things are thus – slowly but surely – getting back to some sense of normalcy, the destination too needs to play its role. For example, too many cars can still be seen parked on the sidewalks on Front and Back Streets.
Philipsburg in general could use some minor improvements that don’t require a bunch of money or years of planning and writing reports. A quick-scan and subsequent spruce-up job for the shopping area by Public Works crews would probably make a world of difference.
Continuing to comply with social distancing, face mask wearing and hand sanitising rules remains important not just to stay safe, but to reassure guests that protecting also their health is taken seriously here.
Renewed growth of the cruise business compared to pre-pandemic levels is not expected before 2023, but the sector will gradually rebound in the meantime. St. Maarten seems well-poised to benefit from that development both now and in the future.