Year-round stability

Year-round stability

While there is much talk among primarily politicians and civil servants about the proposed Caribbean Body for Reform and Development COHO to supervise a “country package” of restructuring measures, many in the private sector are mainly worried about the upcoming “long hot summer” and how to get through it. Perhaps not everyone concerned in The Hague or even the other two Dutch Caribbean countries quite understands what that means.

Although Aruba and Curaçao have mainly tourism economies too since the closure of their refineries, they get a lot more European traffic. These tend to go on holiday abroad more, also outside of the historically busy months, than do people from North America. The latter is St. Maarten’s dominant market (68 per cent in 2021) active primarily during winter there, which makes the all-important local hospitality industry strongly seasonal in nature.

Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao (the so-called ABC islands) are outside of the hurricane belt as well, so they don’t really have to deal with St. Maarten’s higher risk of being adversely impacted by tropical weather systems between June 1 and November 30. An additional problem is that reserves employers usually build up from December through March for the quiet period often already went to cover arrears caused by a deep two-year COVID-19 crisis.

However, traditional vacationing patterns appear to be changing in the post-pandemic era, partly due to pent-up travel demand. Several destinations in the region, including Jamaica, the Bahamas and Antigua, are reporting solid bookings for the next few months.

One thing that can help St. Maarten is the resumption of twice-weekly Copa Airlines flights from Panama at the start of June, with connections to much of Central and South America including Brazil. At the recent St. Maarten Innovation Initiatives Linkup Event (SMILE), an “aggressive” related campaign with social media consumer-direct representation through the carrier was announced.

Considering that the frequency of service had gone up to four times per week in the past, this route certainly has potential as a tool to help diversify the island’s visitor source market and provide some welcome year-round stability.

The Daily Herald

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