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Ports & Destinations

International Cruise & Ferry Review

164

CARIBBEAN

Capitalising on

a rich heritage

Port St. Maarten is building a new venue

for cruise passengers and developing

heritage tourism to attract more visitors

ver the past decade, the Port

of St. Maarten has invested

more than US$100 million

to improve its cruise port

infrastructure and enhance

the destination experience for visitors, and

2015 is no different. This year, the port is

focused on completing the Walter Plantz

Square Cruise Heritage Development at

Down Street in Philipsburg.

Located near the Walter Plantz Tender

Jetty, Down Street and Front Street, the US$2

million cruise development will be adorned by

palm trees and will consist of eight cabanas,

a small splash pool for children, a 60ft-long

water fountain which will be illuminated

by 30 coloured lights at night, and parking

for five taxis. The square, which will have

disabled access and 24-hour security, will also

feature a ‘plug-and-play’ entertainment system

comprising a stage, speakers and a generator

to allow local musicians, artists and bands to

perform for visitors.

“We hope that the square will generate

a new spirit of life into the Down Street

area for locals and visitors alike,” says Mark

Mingo, CEO of Port St. Maarten. “Port

St. Maarten management has secured

the perfect product mix that will help to

enhance the tourist experience for cruise

passengers visiting the ‘Friendly Island’ and

the Walter Plantz Square.”

The eight cabanas will each house various

facilities for tourists, including a vegan

restaurant, a restaurant and bar, a massage-

and barber-shop, and a shop selling mobile

accessories and internet services. In addition,

one cabana will be used to help tourists book

activities, while another will house toilets and

lockers, and a third will sell local arts, crafts

and other tourist-related goods.

Each of the cabanas will be constructed in

St. Maarten’s traditional ‘gingerbread’ style

to reflect the island’s national heritage.

“Gingerbread architecture is just one

element of St. Maarten’s rich cultural

heritage and is part of what makes the island

different to other Caribbean destinations,”

says Mingo. “Showcasing our cultural

heritage is part and parcel of Port St.

Maarten’s plan to reinvent cruise tourism

and pique the interest of visiting cruise

passengers and stay-over tourists.”

Walter Plantz Square is just one of

several ‘change community’ projects that

are part of Port St. Maarten’s ground-

up approach to highlighting and re-

establishing the rich cultural heritage

of the country’s forefathers. Each of the

projects has been developed to help engage

various local communities in tourism

and further enhance St. Maarten as a

destination for visitors.

“This is the future where product

enhancement is concerned,” says Mingo.

“We are not only talking about cruise

visitors, but stay-over tourists as well.

No other destination has a duplicate of

our cultural heritage and these ‘change

community’ projects will be a showcase for

our youth and generations to come.”

Port St. Maarten’s management and

supervisory board of directors has also been

working to develop heritage tourism, which

encompasses preserving the elements of

living culture, history and natural history

that the destination values.

Like the United Nations Educational,

Scientific and Cultural Organization

(UNESCO), Port St. Maarten believes

that if world heritage properties are

managed properly, they can have a

significant impact for local economic

development and long-term sustainability

in tourist destinations. It also follows

the principles of UNESCO’s World

Heritage and Sustainable Tourism

Programme, where dialogue and

stakeholder cooperation about tourism

and heritage management are integrated

at a destination level to ensure that

natural and cultural assets are valued

and protected, and appropriate tourism

opportunities are developed.

As part of this drive to heritage tourism, the

port has been working to preserve and share

St. Maarten’s historical sites, including Fort

Amsterdam, Emilio Wilson Estate, the Great

Salt Pans near Sucker Garden, and more.

In addition, the island has hosted

several international conferences over

the past couple of years. Last October,