Economy and Tourism

Tourism, Tourism and More Tourism

As a divided Caribbean island, with two separate yet attached nations, St. Martin on the French side and St. Maarten on the Dutch side, both countries enjoy a wonderful  climate, beautiful beaches, and their own unique island style.  An active tourist industry accounts for 75-85% of GDP.  The island’s location and highly developed infrastructure, in contrast to smaller less developed Caribbean nations, generates significant economic benefits from Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM).  A major Caribbean hub airport, handling 2.5 million tourists each year, SXM serves as the main gateway to the Leeward Islands.

Cruise ship terminals on both sides of the island bring a weekly supply of travelers who feast, drink, and shop at the island’s excellent restaurants and boutiques.  Jewelry shops featuring expensive watches, pearls, and gemstones are prevalent and attract shoppers with discounted, duty-free prices.

The economy of St. Martin on both the French and Dutch sides is primarily service-based, with the expected emphasis on tourism.  Some income is also produced from petroleum refining, offshore finance, and trade with other Caribbean islands.  St. Martin has one of the highest per capita incomes in the Caribbean and enjoys a relatively well-developed infrastructure.

The result of poor soil conditions and limited water supplies, farming and agriculture have been slow to develop and represent less than 1% of historical GDP.  Given the island’s substantial reliance on imported goods; crude petroleum, food products, and manufactured items imported primarily from the U.S., Venezuela, and Mexico, the health of the local economy is closely tied to the mainland world.  Recently, the local governments have made efforts to diversify and stimulate the island’s economy by establishing facilities for manufacturing.

In recent years, St. Martin has began shifting its focus to another type of tourism, health and wellness, combined with water-sports and an introduction to local cuisine and culture.  Spearheading a number of promotional campaigns, Saint-Martin’s “natural riches” have become a mainstay of its tourist guides.  Hiking and horseback rides, bicycle touring, quad bike trails, snorkeling, scuba diving, paddle boarding, are all ways to discover this island paradise.

Visitors return home with lasting memories of beautiful beaches, expansive island vistas, historic sites, traditional buildings, fine dining, island beach bars, flea markets and encounters with the locals.  Unlike many Caribbean islands, with not much to do except sun, sea, and eat, there is nightlife on St. Martin!  In fact with 12 Casinos on the Dutch side, and an assortment of restaurants, clubs, and beach party venues to choose from in both capital cities, Dutch Philipsburg and French Marigot, for those interested the island is a nightlife hotspot!

Tourist Demographic Breakdown by Nation
United States

The 2016-2017 outlook for growth in all sectors is positive! GDP continues to be driven primarily by the tourism, transportation, and marine trade sectors. BMI Research Group’s Economic Analysis projects that developed markets will fuel growth in Caribbean Tourism in 2017.  “Stronger growth in developed markets will provide tailwinds to tourist arrivals in the Caribbean in 2017.  After stagnating in the first half of 2016 in response to outbreaks of the Zika virus, arrivals growth accelerated in the latter half of the year.  This trend will continue in the coming months on faster economic growth in developed economies, particularly the U.S.  Moreover, growth will be supported by new source markets for tourists, such as Latin America, over the longer term. The tourism sector will drive an expansion in economic activity around the Caribbean in the years ahead.”

The construction industry has expanded since a number of investment projects are quite active.  These investments include; construction of the new dock at the harbor to facilitate additional cruise ships and the ongoing renovations and refurbishment of various hotels and guest houses.  A regional hospital is currently under construction on the Dutch side. Additionally, the Princess Juliana International Airport always has a number of building improvement projects under way. They currently include: renovation of the  runway, expansion of FBO facilities to service helicopters and private jets, relocation and renovation of the fuel farm, and renovations to the existing cargo building at the current location, completion of the solar farm.

On the Dutch Side of St. Maarten, the Government’s planned overall capital investments for 2015-2016 included; repair work to Front Street and Back Street of Philipsburg, the completion of the government building, and the rejuvenation and commercialization of the lower Philipsburg (Down Street) business district as part of the plan to stimulate St. Maarten’s economy, strengthen investors’ confidence, and create jobs in both the public and private sectors.

St. Maarten’s trade is categorized as merchandise, transportation, tourism,  and other services. It should be noted, that on average 72 percent of the exports are derived from tourism services. Over the past four years overall exports of goods and services have been on the increase, with the main component being travel tourism. This is followed by the exports of other services (14%) such as construction, repair & maintenance, and financial services. Other exports are locally manufactured merchandise (11%) and transportation services (3%).

Belmond La Samanna

Address:Baie Longue Bp 4077
Rating:5 Stars
Year Built:Renovated in 2011
Ocean View:$850/night

The Westin St. Maarten

Address:144 Oyster Pond Road
Rating:3 Stars
Year Built:Renovated in 2012
Average Rate:$450/night

Coral Beach Club

Address:Emerald Merit Road #3
Rating:3 Stars
Year Built:2007
Average Rate:$450/night

Hotel L’Esplanade Caraibe

Address:B.P. 5007
Rating:3 Stars
Year Built:1992
Average Rate:$400/night

Sonesta Great Bay

Address:Little Bay Rd 19
Rating:3 Stars
Year Built:Renovated in 2014
Average Rate:$600/night

Sonesta Ocean Point

Address:1A Rhine Road
Rating:4 Stars
Year Built:Renovated in 2014
Average Rate:$675/night