In a significant achievement for a destination hit hard by the storms of 2017, St Maarten was the fastest-growing tourism destination in the Caribbean last year.
The destination’s growth rate of 80 percent was the biggest improvement of any destination in the region, according to data released Wednesday by the Caribbean Tourism Organization.
The British Virgin Islands was the next-fastest-growing destination, with 57.3 percent growth, followed by Dominica at 51.7 percent — all three destinations marking strong recoveries since Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017.
In all, St Maarten reported 319,696 stayover visitors in 2019, along with a total of 1.63 million cruise passengers.
The latter represented 2.2 percent year-over-year growth for what is one of the most-visited cruise stops in the wider Caribbean region.
St Maarten’s growth was driven by the all-important United States market — which accounted for 165,743 visitors, representing an improvement of a whopping 145 percent compared to 2018.
The Canadian market sent 27,736 visitors to St Maarten, a jump of 202.7 percent, while Europe sent 91,814 visitors, a 22.4 percent increase.
While the increase is of course tied to the lull in visitation in the months following the storms of 2017, St Maarten’s chart-topping increase is a major sign for one of the destination, more impressive given that St Maarten has been working with a provisional version of the Princess Juliana International Airport.
On that front, airport officials say the rebuilding of the permanent terminal will begin this year, following the signing of a $72 grant reconstruction agreement with the World Bank at the end of 2019.
St Maarten is positioned to continue strong growth in 2020, with major European carriers returning strong airlift for the season, and a bustling hotel pipeline.
That includes the transformed Sonesta Maho and Sonesta Ocean Point resorts, both of which have been open again for some time, and newer properties like the highly-anticipated 124-room Morgan resort in Simpson Bay, set to open in the second half of 2020.
Another new property, the Adonis hotel in Cupecoy, just opened its doors at the beginning of this year.
Next month, the French side of the island will get a huge injection of energy with the debut of AMResorts’ first-ever property in the French Caribbean, the new Secrets St Martin on Anse Marcel, one that will add to a reinvigorated hotel product led by the sparkling rebuild of the Grand Case Beach Club.