St. Maarten Harbor CEO Mingo expects 1.6 million cruise visitors

POSTED: 08/22/11 12:28 PM

Average spending down 11.5 percent

St. Maarten – Cruise passengers will pump approximately $208 million into the local economy this year. This appears from figures Mark Mingo, the Chief Executive Officer of the Harbor group of companies revealed yesterday on Radio Soualiga’s for the record broadcast.
Spending by cruise passengers has decreased since 2007 by about 11.5 percent from $147 to $130 a day. Mingo said that crew member-spending is up from $149 a day in 2007 to $200. The most recent figures stem from a survey that was done one and a half years ago.
Mingo said that the company has just commissioned a new survey. Next year the new figure for average spending will become available.
The dip in cruise passenger spending between 2007 and 2009 has cost the local economy close to $20.4 million, based on an approximate number of 1.2 million cruise passengers in 2009.
Mingo was upbeat about the future for the cruise industry in St. Maarten. “In 2001 we received 850,000 visitors from cruise lines, and in 2003 we crossed the 1 million-mark for the first time. This year we’d like to surpass 1.6 million passengers.”
Mingo said that the competition for a piece of the cruise passenger market has “increased fiercely.” Already in 2003, he said, the harbor in close cooperation with then Commissioner Theo Heyliger had redesigned its marketing strategy. “We have to keep knocking on every door of every executive. People think that cruise ships arrive here just like that but that is not the case.”
The strategic agreements with cruise companies Carnival and Royal Caribbean in 2007 have served St. Maarten well. Carnival invested $36.5 million and Royal Caribbean an additional $10 million. Carnival has four preferential berths in the port, Royal Caribbean two.
Mingo said that the plan for the now sand-filled area near the port is part of a deal with Royal Caribbean. It will not be the location for the much talked about dolphinarium. “There is a plan for a hotel of at least 4.5 stars,” Mingo said. “Talks about that plan have been ongoing since 2007.”
Due to the economic downturn, the harbor has been looking at ways to cut costs, Mingo said. One of the plans to achieve this is to install wind energy. “We have to move towards reducing those costs. We are close to it, but we have to make sure we get the right technology,” Mingo told interviewer Eddie Willliams.
Mingo said that container-movements in the port are driven by consumption and economic activity. “They are a direct indicator for how the economy is doing,” he said, conceding that the container business had experienced “some difficulty” lately. The harbor is looking for additional business in the transshipment sector to surrounding islands like Saba, Statia, Tortola, and Anguilla.

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