Following a study of the number of nights occupied during the last peak tourist seasons, the St. Maarten Hospitality & Trade Association (SHTA) analyzed the returns of this year's peak season, comparable to those of last winter.
Regardless of the end of the global pandemic and travel restrictions, only 6% growth has been recorded in terms of year-over-year occupied nights since the start of the season. Compared to the pre-Irma winter season, Sint Maarten hosted 23% fewer overnight stays in high season compared to the 2016/2017 winter season, although 84% of the 2016/2017 room count is currently available .
Occupancy figures are derived from SHTA hotels and timeshare properties in November, December, January and February, compared to winter seasons 2016/2017, 2019/2020, 2021/2022. Unfortunately, our statistics currently lack data on airports, sharing economy rentals on sites like Airbnb, VRBO and others and the French part.
The peak season analysis follows earlier indicators that Sint Maarten's occupancy rate needs improvement. In 2022, hotels on the Dutch side had an occupancy rate of 64%, compared to 71% for Curaçao and 75% for Aruba.
More worryingly, the occupancy rate in December was 2% lower than St. Maarten in 2021.
More positively, the occupancy rate in February 2023 is 7% higher than the previous year (81% compared to 74% in 2022). Many hoteliers are concerned about the lack of recovery in tourism, with a traditionally lower occupancy rate in summer.
To remedy this, the SHTA urges the government to develop the promotion of destination tourism. The association estimates that every dollar invested in tourism would return five times more to the coffers of the State in the short term, thanks to airport charges, accommodation, car rental, timeshare, turnover taxes business and other sources of income. Tourism spending is currently below 40% on the French side of St. Maarten, Aruba and Curacao when measured per room.
To improve summer occupancy, the St. Maarten Tourism Board (STB) is reallocating a portion of funds available for advertising spend to a summer digital campaign, with the goal of improving occupancy. The SHTA supports this move but hopes that the government will systematically increase funding for the STB to further boost the tourism engine of the economy, improving public and private sector revenues, while ensuring that market share gains do not are not lost through future marketing failures. _AF
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