St. Kitts and Nevis enjoys hotel, cruise-ship bonanza

Entrance to Palm Grove Villas at the luxurious Four Seasons Resort Nevis. (Larry Luxner)

Editor’s Note: This is part of  a series of stories on Caribbean tourism. Read the previous stories here.

The twin-island nation of St. Kitts and Nevis — one of the world’s smallest independent countries — will add some 1,000 upper-end hotel rooms to inventory during 2013, said Prime Minister Denzil Douglas.

Planned construction projects include the Beach & Golf Residences at Half Moon Bay; expansion and upgrading of the rooms at the Marriott, including new facilities for the Marriott Residences and the new Marriott Towers; the construction of the Park Hyatt Hotel at Banana Bay Peninsula and construction of the Koi Resort.

But the real growth in St. Kitts tourism is expected to come from cruise ships.

A study conducted by Pennsylvania-based Business Research & Economic Advisors (BREA) places St. Kitts among the highest-rated Caribbean destinations for cruise tourism expenditures and passenger satisfaction during the 2011-12 cruise year.

The study also showed more than 400% growth in cruise passenger arrivals to St. Kitts over the past six years. Since 2006, average per-passenger expenditures have nearly doubled, from $57.40 in 2005-06 to $108.90 in 2011-12 — which is 14 percent  above the Caribbean average, according to the study.

“St. Kitts’ recent outstanding performance in the cruise sector is directly attributable to several initiatives undertaken by government following the decision to end sugar production in 2005,” said Ricky Skerritt, the country’s minister of tourism.

“The improvements in downtown Basseterre, development of shops, restaurants and key attractions, and increasing the number of certified taxi and tour operators in anticipation of demand growth, have clearly had a very positive impact on the experience that St. Kitts offers to visitors,” he said, noting that the percentage of cruise passengers saying they were extremely or very satisfied with their overall St. Kitts shopping experience was 74 percent in the 2011-12 season, compared to just 47 percent  six years earlier.

Interior courtyard at Brimstone Hill Fortress, a major tourist attraction. (Larry Luxner)

During that time frame, cruise arrivals have jumped from 117,000 to just over 629,000 — an increase of 400 percent compares to the regional average of 13 percent during the same period.

Meanwhile, the new multimillion-dollar Koi Resort & Residences has been announced by KRL Hospitality. Nick Haque, the company’s CEO, said Koi Resorts is already established in the United States, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates. The chain’s newest property — which consists of a government-approved citizenship by investment scheme in partnership with the Koi brand — will be located on 16 acres of beachfront property along Half Moon Bay, adjacent to the Royal St. Kitts Golf Club.

Beautifully landscaped pool area at the Four Seasons Resort Nevis. (Larry Luxner)

Tourism officials on Nevis say they’ll continue to market their 36-square-mile island as a small luxury cruise destination.

Mark Brantley, deputy premier of Nevis and minister of tourism, said at the Sea Trade Cruise Conference in Miami there would be no multimillion-dollar investments to expand existing cruise facilities on his island, which is home to 12,000 people.

“We do not have any intentions to build any cruise facilities in Nevis,” he said. “We feel that our focus is still predominantly land-based tourism, but where we can access either day-trippers from St. Kitts or alternatively we can access the small high-end cruises. That is certainly the way we wish to go.”

On the nearby island of St. Maarten, the local tourism bureau says arrivals jumped by 17 percent in 2012 compared to the year before — aided by JetBlue’s new direct service from Puerto Rico and weekly Delta flights from New York to St. Maarten.

The agency said it recorded an 11% growth from the U.S. market; that compares to average 3 percent growth in 2012 for a group of seven nearby destinations including Anguilla, Antigua, Aruba, Barbados, Curaçao, Puerto Rico and St. Lucia.

Fancy gingerbread latticework at the Hermitage Inn, a restored sugar plantation. (Larry Luxner)

For the Canadian market, St. Maarten had the highest growth at 27 percent (followed by Anguilla at 24 percent and Curaçao at 22 percent). From Europe, Puerto Rico had the biggest percentage increase, at 19 percent — but that base is only 16,000 passengers compared to St. Maarten’s 70,000 passengers, which saw a 7 percent  increase during that period.

To cope with the increased passenger load, St. Maarten has secured a $132 million bond for major improvements to its Princess Juliana International Airport.

“The issuing of these bonds will enable us to take our already successful airport to new heights in which we can welcome more international flights as well as the growing number of private jet owners that want to come to our Caribbean island,” said Regina LaBega, the airport’s managing director.

Salesgirl proudly displays a Nevis license plate at a souvenir shop in Charlestown. (Larry Luxner)
Salesgirl proudly displays a Nevis license plate at a souvenir shop in Charlestown. (Larry Luxner)

This includes rehabilitating PJIA’s relatively short 7,150-foot runway — which has already commenced — as well as construction of a new fuel farm that can store 15 days of jet fuel. Also on the drawing board: construction of new taxiways to increase runway efficiency, an expansion of the aprons to provide more aircraft parking, and acquisition of land so the airport can expand later on if necessary.

Another capital improvement project planned for St. Maarten is the $39 million Simpson Bay Lagoon Causeway — a controversial 700-meter causeway that will link Airport Boulevard to Cole Bay in the vicinity of Port de Plaisance. The bridge has been dubbed a waste of taxpayers’ money and an environmental disgrace by locals opposed to the project, yet it’s still on track and should be completed this summer.



One thought on “St. Kitts and Nevis enjoys hotel, cruise-ship bonanza

  • Bill Hughes
    July 24, 2013 at 7:38 PM

    Nice piece. I luv the Caribbean. Alexander Hamilton, one of America’s Founding Fathers, was born on the island of Nevis.

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