Tomorrow's opening of the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association's (FCCA) 21st annual Conference & Trade Show-the Caribbean's largest cruise tourism conference and trade show-will reconfirm St. Maarten's commitment to maximizing cruise tourism's economic impact.
St. Maarten is looking to build onto their past growth by hosting the event-along with about 1,000 tourism stakeholders and 100 executives, presidents and CEOs from FCCA's 15 Member Lines-for a second time. The destination knows the significance because of their progress after their first Conference in 2003. In 2001, St. Maarten Harbour Group of Companies reported 875,540 passenger arrivals. This number rose 70 percent to 1,490,386 in 2005, just two years after hosting the Conference.
These numbers extend far beyond the cruise pier; they impact the entire economy. According to the Business Research & Economic Advisors (BREA) 2012 study, Economic Contribution of Cruise Tourism to the Destination Economies, the average expenditure per passenger in St. Maarten was $185.40, which benefitted numerous industries through purchases of goods that included food and beverage at restaurants and bars, clothing, shore excursions, ground transportation, local crafts and souvenirs, watches and jewelry, perfumes and cosmetics, electronics, entertainment/night clubs/casinos, retail purchases of liquor, and telephone and internet.
However, this is hardly the only economic contribution provided by cruise tourism. The same study showed that the average expenditure per crew in St. Maarten was $135.50 for similar products and services. Plus it revealed the direct and indirect employment generated by the cruise industry, totaling 8,123 jobs and $159.8 million in employee wages.
By these figures, St. Maarten's 70 percent increase after hosting their first Conference represents an increase of $114 million in passenger spending alone, along with the coinciding growth of crew spending, cruise line spending, employment and indirect contribution of passengers that return to the destination as stay-over visitors.
Projecting this same growth after this year's Conference would be aggressive, considering that in 2014 St. Maarten expects 1.67 million passenger arrivals onboard 523 vessels from FCCA Member Lines alone. But a single cruise ship has a large economic wake. BREA's figures show that just one average cruise vessel-130,000 GRT, 1,040 feet long, carrying 3,000 passengers and 500 crewmembers-would generate $556,200 in passenger spending and $67,750 in crew spending, along with roughly $15,000 in port fees, totaling $638,950.
Projecting a more conservative growth rate of 20 percent, or 105 additional cruise ship calls, would mean an extra $67 million per year directly contributed to St. Maarten's economy. Plus a 20 percent increase in cruise tourism-impacted employment would represent 1,625 more jobs with $32 million in wages.
As Mark Mingo, CEO of Port St. Maarten, noted, hosting the event is also a step in establishing conference and convention tourism. "Conference and convention tourism is a niche market that should be explored and developed," said Mingo.
"We have an opportunity in the FCCA post-conference period to work towards establishing St. Maarten as a dynamic business events destination."
Considering the potential economic impact from cruise and convention tourism, it becomes easy to understand why St. Maarten again decided to invest in the FCCA Conference & Trade Show.