Business View Caribbean | April 2019

68 BUSINESS VIEW CARIBBEAN APRIL 2019 advisory roles with government for developments. Revenue realized by the Port, itself, is evenly split between cargo and cruise, but the cruise industry is much more important to the local economy. The country is 90 percent dependent on tourism, and more than a third of the GDP is generated from cruise and cruise-related business. The Port St. Maarten Group has about 80 direct employees, but those in service are sub-contracted. In total, over 1,000 people on a daily basis find work on Port premises. “Most employees have long tenure,” says van Kooten, “but we are also happy with new recruits, and new talent that we foresee taking over the reins, in due time. From the executive side of the Port, we are very fortunate to have our cargo terminal manager, Mr. Roger Lawrence, and our Business Development Officer and Marketing Manager, Mr. Alexander Gumbs.” In 2017, the devastating hit from Hurricane Irma took its toll. For St. Maarten and its people, the emotional impact was the worst, though, the effect continues to be felt, economically, as well. The Port, alone, had $13 million in direct damage and business interruption is estimated at $25 million. Nonetheless, Port St. Maarten is about a year ahead in cruise recovery, based on projections. For 2018, the total number of passengers was 1.7 million, and in the latter half of the year, numbers were back up to pre-Irma standards. Thanks, in no small measure, to a great collaborative effort between local stakeholders, the resilience of the St. Maarten people, and the trust and confidence received from all the major cruise lines. As for current challenges, van Kooten states, “A lot of the shore access is in the hands of small operators and they are lagging a bit in recovering their product, based on damages they have from Irma. We also see a bigger desire from visitors to immerse themselves in culture and history, and the private sector here is slowly adapting to those changing tastes. We have to move away from the traditional shopping and beach – those are nice basic elements but you need to offer more. As a resort destination port, we are facilitating the process; making sure that local stakeholders