Sint Maarten Cruise Traffic Hit Record Levels in May & June 2018, Still a Long Way to Go

It’s no secret that cruise ships visiting Sint Maarten are crucial to the local economy. They bring in thousands of passengers, many of whom have never visited the island. And while cruises normally only stay in port for the day, that may be a good thing. The average daily expenditure per cruise passenger in Sint Maarten (per Sint Maarten Dept of Statistics 2015 Survey) was $205.86. That’s almost $130 more per day than the average amount of $75.90 spent per day by overnight visitors.

After Irma hit, the first cruise ship arrived in port Sint Maarten on December 4, 2017. It was a beautiful site for many who call the island home and a sign that the tourism industry, which supports nearly 90% of the economy of the island, was back open once again.

According to the Sint Maarten Department of Statistics, cruise traffic in both May and June 2018 hit record levels, which is welcome news and an encouraging sign. Not only does this show that the cruise lines are excited about the recovery of Sint Maarten following the devastating 2017 hurricane season, but it also shows there is a high level of demand from passengers wanting to visit this beautiful island.

Here are the cruise statistics from the Sint Maarten Department of Statistics for the months of May and June starting in 1995 through 2018. Check them out and I’ll meet you on the other side with more information.

Cruise Vessels Cruise Passengers
MAY JUN Total MAY JUN Total
1995 31 19 50 45,580 35,707 81,287
1996 25 19 44 38,564 37,815 76,379
1997 33 22 55 59,318 49,458 108,776
1998 26 19 45 52,186 43,091 95,277
1999 12 12 24 28,229 28,878 57,107
2000 23 21 44 51,424 39,831 91,255
2001 21 18 39 50,048 42,704 92,752
2002 22 23 45 54,643 59,847 114,490
2003 31 25 56 60,364 52,064 112,428
2004 33 32 65 60,364 52,064 112,428
2005 27 22 49 79,501 77,829 157,330
2006 30 20 50 89,624 69,248 158,872
2007 23 19 42 73,368 69,046 142,414
2008 18 16 34 57,983 59,273 117,256
2009 17 12 29 50,266 43,494 93,760
2010 23 22 45 79,074 84,889 163,963
2011 24 17 41 81,347 73,477 154,824
2012 19 18 37 76,476 77,211 153,687
2013 21 19 40 84,588 79,904 164,492
2014 31 25 56 115,385 102,517 217,902
2015 25 21 46 91,911 86,571 178,482
2016 22 18 40 81,747 76,985 158,732
2017 23 20 43 89,845 88,008 177,853
2018 30 27 57 120,907 120,266 241,173

As you can see, cruise ship arrivals over these two months were at their highest levels since May and June of 2004. In addition, cruise passengers were at the highest level ever reported by the DOS for the months of May and June. This is a huge boost to the island and it also illustrates that there are a lot of people making their way back to SXM.

That’s the good news. However, if we look deeper into the numbers we can see there’s still a long way to go to get to a complete recovery.

Total cruise passengers year-to-date through June were down over 27% from 2017 (1,011,608 passengers) compared to 2018 (733,666). That’s an improvement, thanks to the record setting months of May and June, from an over 41% decline in cruise passengers through the first four months of 2018.

Overnight visitors were also way down year-over-year through June by over 221,000 visitors. That’s a decrease of nearly 75% when comparing 2018 (74,474) to 2017 (296,570). And, per the DOS survey, overnight visitors stay an average of 7.7 nights. That’s a year-over-year reduction of 1,701,700 visitor nights.

If we look at the annual estimated economic impact due to the decline in tourism from 2017 to 2018, we get the following numbers:

Overnight visitors – 221,000 x 7.7 (avg # of nights per visitor) = 1,701,700 visitor nights x $75.90 = $129,159,030 in lost revenue

Cruise passengers – 277,942 x $205.86 = $57,217,140 in lost revenue

Total lost revenue in 2018 through June was approximately $186 million. That’s a sobering reminder of the impact of the 2017 hurricane season. It’s also a great reason to plan a trip to the Friendly Island to help continue the trend we saw from increasing cruise passenger traffic in May and June.

This past week was the most active since the hurricane season began, and fortunately the island has avoided any major storms thus far. Getting through this season without any big storms would be an enormous step forward to complete recovery for the island of Saint Martin.

Work continues on the terminal at Princess Juliana International Airport, with the projected transfer of the departure and arrival operations to the ground floor of the Terminal Building in November 2018, just in time for the next high season.

One thing is clear – All the pieces are in place for an incredible 2018/19 season. Now, the weather just needs to cooperate.

Show your support for Saint Martin/Sint Maarten with an SXM Strong t-shirt or hat. Proceeds go directly to assist local residents and communities on the island.

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Jon Ferlise

I am a U.S. citizen living in Phoenix, Arizona, with my wife and two sons, ages 4 and 6 (and yes, they LOVE SXM as much as we do!). My family considers the island a second home and we’ve been there countless times. We love the culture, the people, the community and the beauty of this island. The people have always made us feel at home and welcome. This is a small way for me and my family to support an island and it’s people that we hold so dear.

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