Published On: Wed, Sep 27th, 2023

Statistics department optimistic about economic recovery

PHILIPSBURG — St. Maarten’s economic recovery is moving in the right direction, according to the recently completed economic indicators table from the Department of Statistics (STAT).

The numbers used for this conclusion mostly stem from 2021 and 2022 and even those numbers are not all final.

STAT projects a 4.6 percent growth of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2021 and estimates its value to be around 2.27 billion guilders ($1.27 billion). GDP was affected during the past couple of years by natural disasters like Hurricane Irma (2017) and the corona pandemic and its subsequent lockdown in 2020. Irma caused a drop in GDP of 7.5 percent in 2017 and while it recovered nicely in 2019 with an uptick of 11 percent; the Covid lockdown in 2020 brought the numbers down again by 13.3 percent.

Inflation stood at 1.61% in the first half of 2023, the STAT report notes. Unemployment was 10.8 percent in 2021 and declined to 9.7 percent a year later. STAT anticipates an additional reduction in 2023.

Unemployment reached a high of 11 percent in 2011 and dropped to a low of 6.2 percent in 2017.

The numbers presented about the tourism industry seem incomplete. STAT reports that the sector is “painting a promising picture with notable growth in stay-over and cruise passenger arrivals,” adding that 76 percent of these visitors hail from North America and Canada.

The report, at least the press release about the report, states that stay-overs hit 600,000 in 2016, dipped to just above 100,000 in 2020 and recovered to around 400,000 in 2022.

The first half year of 2022 there were 419,975 stay-over arrivals in the first half of 2023 this number almost doubled to 800,820. These numbers are still a worrisome 1856 percent below 2016-levels. STAT expects stay-over arrivals to reach pre-Irma levels of approximately 1.9 million passengers in 2025.

The press release says nothing about cruise passenger arrivals.

According to Statists, St. Maarten received 1,669,000 cruise passengers in 2016; in 2021 that number dropped dramatically to just 243,450.

According to a survey by the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) average spending per cruise passenger in St. Maarten is $191.26. This means that those visitors contributed $319,212,940 to the local economy, while that contribution dropped to just $46,562, 247 in 2021 – a difference of a stunning $272.6 million. This does not only affect the income of local entrepreneurs, it also influences the turnover tax that flows into the government’s coffers.

Speaking of turnover tax: those numbers are on the rise. In the first half of 2023, the government collected 42,657,933 guilders ($23,831,247) compared to 32,386,438 guilders ($18,092,982) in the same quarter of 2022.

The occupancy rate of hotel rooms and timeshares rose from 35 percent in 2020 to 64.2 percent in 2022. In 2016 the occupancy rate was 69.1 percent for a total of 3,315 available rooms. STAT expects the occupancy rate to surpass the 2016-levels in the upcoming quarters.