In my prior editorial, VI Killing the Golden Goose, I have made the case that St. Maarten because it expanded its mega-class berthing capacity has surpassed the USVI as the premiere cruise destination in the Caribbean. St. Maarten has experienced increased cruise visits particularly from Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruise lines while St. Thomas ship visits have declined from these two premiere lines.
To illustrate this point, it’s worth looking at the Florida- Caribbean Cruise Association 2015 economic impact analysis for cruise passengers only. This report is the most recent available on line. St. Maarten is the indisputable winner. St Maarten captured a staggering 78 million dollars more than St Thomas, in revenue for that fiscal year. The USVI lost millions in gross receipts tax, and local businesses lost sales opportunities.
2015 Total Cruise Tourism Expenditures: (The sum of all expenditures by a ship when in port including passenger spending, shore excursions, crew spending, cruise line purchases, port services, dock fees, utilities, water, food & supplies from local business)
- USVI: $344.3 million
- Maarten: $422.9 million
Average expenditure per passenger:
- USVI: $150.21
- Maarten: $191.26
Total Passenger Expenditures:
- USVI: $276.3 million
- Maarten: $354.7 million
Cumulatively over a four-year period St. Thomas has had – 36.2 % less ship visits compared with St. Maarten. Since both Islands sell essentially similar products, the big driver of revenue for St. Maarten is the frequency and number of ship calls of the Oasis class vessel. St. Thomas must expand its berthing capacity to remain competitive.
Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruise Calls
* source Royal Media Partners ship call sheets
St. Maarten did a beautiful renovation of its’ historic district years ago. They also have added an efficient water transportation system.
By contrast, St. Thomas has been promised water transportation for years from our elected officials but it has yet to materialized.
The Main Street enhancement project appears to be stalled again as questions swirl around the contractor, Tip Top Construction’s ability to complete the job (the same contractor who was involved in litigation with the VI Government for years over the restoration of Fort Christian).
The community deserves an update on the status of this vital historic renovation project that Charlotte Amalie desperately needs in order to improve its product.
Increasing mega berthing capacity, water transportation and a beautifully renovated town will ensure St Thomas’s future success and prosperity.
Editor’s note: Filippo Cassinelli runs A.H. Riise Mall on St. Thomas, which has been in his family since 1928.