PORT ST. MAARTEN - Over the past decade the St. Maarten Harbour Group of Companies (SHGC) has invested more than US$100 million into infrastructure and equipment, and the focus for the future is on investing in personnel and processes to continue to improve efficiency.

Over the same timeframe the Group has been transformed into a much more commercially orientated operation, including a refinancing package of US$150 million by the Central Bank of Curacao and St. Maarten.

Most recent major investments on-going and completed are the Down Street Cruise Heritage Development and the Simpson Bay Causeway. Smaller investments have also been made with one of the most recent being the Caribbean's first crew lounge.

The year 2014 is a special year for Port St. Maarten and the destination.  Besides marking 50-years in cruise, the destination will also be hosting the 21st Annual Florida Caribbean Conference & Trade Show.

St. Maarten: A Port to Remember, A 21st Annual FCCA Conference & Trade Show to Remember

The Westin Dawn Beach Resort & Spa has been selected as the official hotel for the 21st Annual Florida Caribbean Cruise Association Conference & Trade Show. Westin is one of the country's leading brand name hotels which offer various amenities for guests along with the most important, the St. Maarten hospitality.

The resort is nestled into a hillside valley area right next to one of the country's finest beach - Dawn Beach.

Preparations continue to ramp up as the clock ticks down to the prestigious 21st Annual Florida Caribbean Cruise Association Conference & Trade Show that will take place from October 6th to the 10th. This will be the second time that St. Maarten will host the FCCA Conference.

Every effort is being made to make the 2014 FCCA Conference & Trade Show a memorable one. It will be the conference to remember mimicking the branding quote used by Port St. Maarten, namely the "Port to Remember."

The port facilities that have been developed during the past 50-years have much to do with the island's development of the cruise sector.

During the 2011/2012 cruise year (12-month period running from May 2011 through April 2012), cruise tourism generated significant economic benefits to the 21 participating destinations that took part in the BREA Cruise Analysis 2012. Nearly two billion US dollars in direct expenditures was generated, employing 45,225 persons and generating US$728 million in employee wages among the 21 destinations included in the study.

Five destinations had direct cruise tourism expenditures of US$100 million or more, and country St. Maarten is one of the top five; nine destinations had direct expenditures between US$25 million and US$100 million while seven had direct expenditures less than US$25 million.

The Port St. Maarten was second in the top five destinations with US$356.2 million in expenditures by passengers and crew. The top five destinations have US$1.43 billion in direct expenditures, accounting for 72 per cent of the total cruise tourism expenditures among the 21 destinations.

The cruise sector is a key strategic economic pillar of the country's economy, generating a total of 8,123 jobs with a wage income of US$160 million.

The Port St. Maarten in 2013 received 1,785.670 cruise passengers, 32,455 passengers more than in 2012. Cruise passengers arrived on 631 vessel calls for 2013. Overall for 2012, the destination received 622 ship calls with 1,753,215 cruise passengers.

In 1980 the destination only received 105,000 cruise passengers for the entire year. This grew to 564,251 in 1995 and to 1,055.040 eight years later in 2002.

The relationship that has been built with the FCCA has withstood the test of time. The relationship is based on trust, understanding, cooperation, enduring, beneficial and a partnership, which has resulted in the positive development of the cruise sector within the Caribbean Basin.

The Port St. Maarten has gone up and beyond to facilitate the much anticipated high turnout for the 21st Annual Conference.

For those who visited the island 10-years ago, much has changed during the past decade. Besides the destination being known as a cuisine and entertainment capital of the Caribbean, cruise executives, and conference delegates will receive a grand St. Maarten welcome from the arrival at the Princess Juliana International Airport to the many activities that are being planned for the 21st Annual FCCA Conference & Trade Show. In the end it will be concluded and remembered as a conference to remember.

The Port St. Maarten and the Government are working hand in hand to make the 21st FCCA Conference the 21st conference of the century.

Besides having Government as a partner in this very important process leading up to the Conference and Trade Show, much effort and work is being placed in partnering with various businesses linked to the cruise sector in order to create an amazing experience for all conference attendees providing a WOW factor.

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