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Ports & destinations

Port St. Maarten reports over 1.5 million cruise passengers in 2018

Port St. Maarten welcomed a total of 1,597,101 cruise passengers on 489 cruise calls in 2018, reflecting a 29% increase in visitor arrivals year-over-year. The acclaimed cruise port saw a 30.3% increase from May through July, when cruise visitations to the island are typically a bit slower.

“St. Maarten’s cruise port has always been one of the best in the Caribbean. These arrival numbers don’t only reflect that fact, but also highlight how quickly the island has bounced back,” said the Director of Tourism of St. Maarten Ms. May-Ling Chun.

The latter half of 2018 also brought about the return to pre-Irma cruise arrival numbers. Port St. Maarten welcomed 646,431 passengers from September to December, indicating a 17.87% increase in arrivals from the same time period in 2016, a full year before Hurricane Irma.

“St. Maarten as a tourism product is set to come back even stronger and better than ever,” stated Stuart Johnson, St. Maarten’s Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport, and Telecommunication. “We look forward to continuing to welcome cruise passengers back to our shores with classic St. Maarten warmth and hospitality throughout 2019.”

Though 2017–2018 numbers year over year showcase a positive path of progression for Port St. Maarten, 2017 was generally a slower year for the port as it was not operational for the months of October and November.

Global Ports Holding signs 30-year concession agreement with Antigua Barbuda

Global Ports Holding Plc, the world's largest independent cruise port operator, has announced that, following it signing of a Memorandum of Understanding which was announced on 9 November 2018, GPH has now signed a 30-year concession agreement with the Government of Antigua and Barbuda for cruise port operations in Antigua on an exclusive basis. The concession also includes certain retail outlets in the project area. This concession marks the Group’s important second step in its expansion into the Americas, after the signing of Havana in 2018.

Under the terms of the concession agreement, the Group will use its global expertise and operating model to manage the cruise port operations in Antigua. In addition, GPH will finance the completion of the ongoing construction of a new pier which will allow the port to handle Oasis class ships. The Group will also invest in improving the current retail facilities and designing and financing the construction of new purpose built retail and F&B facilities.

The successful commencement of the concession is subject to a number of final conditions being satisfied, including, among others, the Group securing suitable financing. GPH is in advanced discussions with local and international banks in relation to long term bank financing for the concession. Full financial closure and commencement of the concession is expected to occur in first half of 2019, although there can be no certainty as to the timing or that the final conditions will be satisfied. A further announcement, as appropriate, will be made in due course.

Gibraltar to offer new helicopter tours around the Rock

The Gibraltar Government has announced that FONNAFLY, a Norwegian Helicopter Company, will be offering sightseeing flights around the Rock from 1 May 2019. The inclusion of such a service has been a long-term aim of the Government in order to supplement the already extensive offer of tourist excursions available to tourists visiting Gibraltar.

FONNAFLY started operations in Norway in 2004 and operate a fleet of 13 helicopters. They presently offer sightseeing flights from five locations in Norway and flew over 2,000 sightseeing flights in 2018. The company also offers taxi flights, VIP transfers and underslung load operations in Norway.

This announcement is the culmination of many years work by John-Erik Sogn, a Norwegian pilot living in Marbella, who has been in contact with the Gibraltar Government for a number of years. He devised the mitigations required to meet the strict environmental conditions imposed by the Department of the Environment in order to be able to operate in Gibraltar and has now partnered with FONNAFLY to bring his dream to fruition.

FONNAFLY will be deploying one EC 130 helicopter, equipped with seven passenger seats, and two pilots to the Airport. Each sightseeing flight will take off from the Airport and will fly around the Rock in one direction before reversing direction to repeat the flight in the other direction – this in order to ensure that passengers on both sides of the helicopter get uninterrupted views of the Rock. Each flight will last between 10 and 15 minutes. The package, which is particularly aimed at the cruise ship market, will give passengers the opportunity to take photos of their cruise ship with the Rock in the background.

Details of the tour can be found at or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The company also hopes to be able to develop the helicopter services offered to include taxi flights to Malaga Airport and other destinations in the future.

Minister Gilbert Licudi, the Minister with Responsibility for Commercial Aviation commented “I am absolutely delighted to welcome FONNAFLY to Gibraltar and am pleased to be able to announce this exciting addition to the Gibraltar tourist product. As a private pilot who has seen the Rock from the air on a number of occasions, I know that the Tours will provide fabulous views for the passengers.”

John-Erik Sogn said “I am glad to see that the years of work I have put into this project are finally going to bear fruit. I am delighted that flights will be starting in May and excited at the potential that basing a helicopter in Gibraltar can bring. Besides the Government, I would also like to thank the Ministry of Defence, in particular the Station Commander, for their help in agreeing to provide hangarage for the helicopter during our initial operations.”

Jon Ove Velure, the CEO of FONNAFLY, stated “FONNAFLY have long been interested in the potential of Gibraltar for sightseeing flights. As a busy cruise ship destination, with an incredible Rock formation dominating the location and views over to Africa we are convinced the trips we will be offering will be successful. We look to a long and fruitful relationship with Gibraltar and can’t wait to start services in May.”

Port of Galveston signs 10-year agreement with Disney Cruise Line

The Port of Galveston has finalized a new agreement with Disney Cruise Line extending preferential berthing agreement rights at the Port for an additional 10 years with an option to renew for two additional five year periods effective November 1, 2018.

The new agreement outlines plans for a shared cruise terminal that will accommodate a ship equal to or larger than the Disney Magic/Disney Wonder class of vessel. Additionally, it is projected that over the first five years of the potential 20 year agreement, Disney will nearly double its sailings. Disney Cruise Line has orders on the books for three new cruise ships.

“September 22, 2012 marked the first time ever that a Disney Cruise Line ship set sail from the State of Texas with the maiden voyage of Disney Wonder. The Port has been seasonal homeport to both Disney Wonder and Disney Magic ever since. We are thrilled to be able to continue to give Texas and the southwest region of the United States the opportunity to experience Disney cruise vacations from their own backyard,” said Port of Galveston CEO/Port Director, Rodger Rees. “We are proud to be one of the few selected homeports for Disney Cruise Line.”

“Our guests have loved visiting Galveston and setting sail from this historic port to the western Caribbean, Key West and the Bahamas,” said Jeff Vahle, president of Disney Signature Experiences and Disney Cruise Line. “As we plan to expand our fleet and introduce new experiences and entertainment aboard our ships, we couldn’t be more excited to extend our commitment with the Port of Galveston.”

Antigua and Barbuda receives over one million visitors for 2018

Antigua and Barbuda welcomed over one million visitors to the destination in 2018, topping 2017 figures and leading Antigua and Barbuda Minister of Tourism the Honourable Charles Fernandez to call 2018, “A record-setting year for Antigua and Barbuda.”

This is following the Government of Antigua and Barbuda’s Budget Speech on Thursday 17 January, when Prime Minister, The Honourable Gaston Browne made the announcement of the “impressive” tourism arrivals.

The destination attracted a total of 1,081,365 visitors in 2018. This is an increase in arrivals from 2017, when Antigua and Barbuda hit the one million visitor mark for the first time with, 1,059,924 visitors.

The most impressive growth was seen in stayover (air) arrivals, where the destination attracted over 20,000 more stayover visitors in 2018 than in 2017. This brought the total number of stayover visitors who arrived via the V.C. Bird International Airport to 268,949. This represents an 8.75% increase in stayover arrivals for the year 2018.

The destination also received more cruise visitors, with cruise arrivals totaling 792,873 while arrivals by yacht totaled 19,543.

Minister Fernandez said, “We have had a very strong year of growth. Very early in 2018, the teams were tasked with re-grouping and working more strategically to attract more stayover visitors to the destination.”

“Our teams were relentless and our tourism performance for 2018 has been exceptional. So much so, that the 2018 stayover figures surpassed not only the 2017 figures but the 2016, 2015, and 2014 arrivals.”

The destination experienced month-on-month stayover growth for the majority of the year, with a strong finish in December 2018, when demand for the destination rose by 6% during that month compared to the previous December.

Overall stayover arrivals for the year, showed the strongest growth from the Canadian market with a 66% increase in arrivals. The US Market where most of the destination’s visitors were derived saw an 8% growth while the UK Market, the second largest source market held its own; remaining flat mainly due to the uncertainties of Brexit that have suppressed outbound travel from the UK. The Caribbean market also recorded an increase.

CEO of the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority Colin C. James has said: “We are optimistic about another year of growth for 2019, with the destination expected to benefit further from upgrades to our tourism infrastructure, new room stock and airlift.”

James also noted, that the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority is set to launch a global summer marketing campaign that will focus on creating demand for the destination during the traditional summer off-season, with value-added offers. This will boost visitor arrivals to the destination at a time when many hotels have excess capacity.

Antigua and Barbuda has seen the tangible results of growth in tourism with the country recording economic growth of 5.3% in 2018, making the destination the fastest growing in the entire CARICOM area.

CBM 2018/2019 Winter