Cruise, stay-over tourist numbers continue to increase, although still less than before Irma

Cruise, stay-over tourist numbers continue to  increase, although still less than before Irma

A STAT graphic showing the total number of stay-over tourists in 2016, 2019, 2021, 2022 and 2023, as well as their regions of origin.

PHILIPSBURG--More than 1.3 million cruise passengers and almost 400,000 stay-over visitors arrived St. Maarten in 2023, according to figures published by the government’s Department of Statistics STAT on Thursday.

Compared to 2022, the number of tourists arriving by cruise ship increased by 56%, while stay-over arrivals went up by 6%. Although still not up to their high-water marks in 2016, the upward trend in the cruise and stay-over segments could mean that the numbers of this record-breaking year will be surpassed “in the coming years,” STAT said.


A total of 395,053 stay-over guests entered the country last year, almost 23,000 more than the 372,808 visitors in 2022.

St. Maarten received 248,852 stay-over tourists in 2021, the first year after the global outbreak of COVID-19. This was a drop of 22.2% compared to the 319,696 visitors in 2019, before the pandemic.

Last year’s stay-over figures represent a 24% increase compared to 2019 and a 59% bump compared to two years ago when St. Maarten and the rest of the world were slowly emerging from the grips of coronavirus travel restrictions and quarantine measures.

“This upward trend is a testament to the country’s resilience and recovery following the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic,” STAT said.

However, the stay-over numbers posted in 2023 are still about 25% less than the 528,153 guests in 2016. A year after this record-breaking figure, Hurricane Irma’s category-five winds caused upwards of US $1 billion in infrastructural damage, which ground the local tourism industry to a halt for months.

The stay-over figures from 2023 show that tourists from the United States and Canada accounted for 67% of arrivals. Travellers from Europe came in a distant second, with 24% of the total, followed by the Caribbean (3%) and South America (2%). This matches strongly with 2016, when 63% of stay-over guests came from North America, 27% from Europe, 4% from the Caribbean and 3% from South America.


Exactly 1,318,177 passengers arrived St. Maarten by cruise ship last year, a 56% rise compared to the 844,090 passengers in 2022 and a four-fold increase compared to the 232,519 passengers in 2021.

A total of 491 cruise ships called at Port St. Maarten in 2023. There were 417 port calls in 2022 and 190 in 2021.

Last year’s cruise arrivals were roughly 3.8% higher than Port St. Maarten’s projected figure of 1.27 million, said STAT.

“This outstanding achievement further solidifies the positive trajectory of the cruise industry,” said STAT.

In 2016, before Hurricane Irma, St. Maarten received about 1.69 million cruise tourists from 602 port calls. Cruise arrivals had almost bounced back in 2019, which saw 1.63 million visitors entering the country from 565 port calls.

However, the outbreak of COVID-19 in early 2020 put a freeze on cruise industry for more than a year.

St. Maarten garnered international media coverage in June 2021 as the home port of the first cruise departing from a North American dock after the pandemic.


The Daily Herald

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