SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – The Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport & Telecommunications (Minister of TEATT) Hon. Roger Lawrence said on Thursday that his ministry, and Port St. Maarten Group (PSG), are proactively engaging cruise partners and closely monitoring the potential impact that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advice will have on the cruise sector in 2022.
The CDC announced on Thursday, December 30 that it has escalated its travel health notice for cruising from level 3 to level 4, its highest.
“This is a very concerning situation and development and has the full attention of Ministry TEATT. We are currently collaborating with the Ministry of VSA (Public Health, Social Development and Labor) to assess our health protocols as this situation remains very fluid and changes day by day. The Omicron variant spreads very quickly as it is more contagious.
“We have established a local cruise work group and are closely working with cruise industry partners to carry out a working formula that we can incorporate to navigate through these new challenges in a manner that will safeguard public health safety and our continued economic recovery,” Minister of TEATT Hon. Roger Lawrence said on Thursday.
PSG Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Alexander Gumbs has been working closely with the minister in order to guide the cruise sector recovery of the country. A local workgroup was established to provide, advice, guidance, and solutions based on trends and developments in the international cruise sector and especially related to the Caribbean region.
During a conference session with the industry leader Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) on December 30, destination St. Maarten has been selected one out of five major cruise destinations in the Caribbean region to form a new cruise committee with the FCCA that would chart the way ahead due to current developments in the sector. More than 100 executives, Port directors and Government officials attended the emergency meeting called by the FCCA and supported by Cruise Lines International (CLIA).
PSG CEO Gumbs also echoed CLIA press statement on December 30th that it seemed like the cruise industry is being targeted once again. CLIA statement further said, “The decision by the CDC to raise the travel level for cruise is particularly perplexing considering that cases identified on the cruise ships consistently make up a very slim minority of the total population onboard – far fewer than on land.
“Cruise ships offer a highly controlled environment with science backed measures, known testing and vaccination levels far above other venues or modes of transportation. Cruise travel has significantly lower incidence rates than land.”
“As a cruise port and destination, we have been following developments closely, and now we see the CDC has escalated the situation advising travelers not to take a cruise. The situation is now very fluid as regional destinations have random heightened public health protocols and this is making confirmed cruise itineraries very difficult to plan by the cruise companies.
“You also have some destinations delaying in making decisions whether a cruise ship should dock, and the worse is to have a ship come into port and after docking, is informed that passengers and crew have been denied disembarkation. This reflects very negatively on the cruise destination,” Gumbs explained on Thursday.
PSG CEO Gumbs added that the first quarter of 2022 is crucial for PSG in connection with the finances of the company. Port St. Maarten prior to the Thursday CDC advice is forecast to receive approximately half a million cruise passengers in the first three months of the New Year, and this is now in doubt.
“We will continue to work closely with the Minister of TEATT and our cruise industry partners in order to weather this new challenge,” PSG CEO Alexander Gumbs said.