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SXM AIRPORT ANNOUNCES SUCCESSFUL DEBT REFINANCING TRANSACTION

SINT MAARTEN (SIMPSON BAY) - On May 11, 2022, Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIAE) completed the successful refinancing of its 2012 indenture, with borrowings under a new term loan facility in the amount of USD 90 million. The new facility has been closed at more favorable terms and a reduced interest rate of 4,75%, which allows PJIAE to stabilize its much needed cash position. 

By taking advantage of low borrowing costs and actively managing its near- and medium-term maturity profile, PJIAE has enhanced its ability to invest in future financial stability and growth. This step is consistent with PJIAE’s strategy to build the airport for the future of Sint Maarten. 

Ben van der Klift, Chief Financial Officer of PJIAE ‘Today’s announcement is an important step forward and another vote of confidence in PJIAE and it underscores our transformation into an airport with  strong ambitions for the future.

With the announcement of this oversubscribed refinancing, and our continued strong performance through Q1 of 2022, we have positively repositioned PJIAE, while enhancing our financial flexibility. However, we’re not out of the woods yet. Hurricane Irma and COVID-19 has had a deep impact on the performance and results of our airport in the last five years and we are on the road to recovery in the coming years’.

PJIAE was able to find the necessary funding within the former Netherlands Antilles and is extremely excited to report that most of the funds (46%) came from St. Maarten institutions, 39% from Curacao based institutions and 15% from Aruba based institutions. AIB Bank N.V. from Aruba acted as mandated lead arranger and RBC Bank N.V., a St. Maarten based financial institution, will be the security and facility agent.

The refinancing of the loan facility would not have been accomplished without the honorable Prime Minister, Minister of Finance, and the Minister of TEATT of Sint Maarten. The Management Board of PJIAE N.V. extends their gratitude for their relentless support during the entire re-financing process.

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Emmanuel: SMMC project out of money is embarrassing puppet show of incompetence

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Independent Member of Parliament (MP) Christophe Emmanuel on Wednesday said his concerns have been validated when it was announced that the new hospital project is out of money. He once gain immediately called on the Minister of VSA to finally conduct a real investigation into how and where US $100 million disappeared, and to stop letting the contractor make a fool out of local leadership.

The MP also pointed to the incompetence of the World Bank, the Trust Fund Steering Committee and the NRPB and its director Claret Connor as once again dropping the ball on a major project years in the making, with no results to show. “This is an embarrassing puppet show of incompetence on display,” he stressed.

MP Emmanuel was reacting to a press release issued by the St. Maarten Medical Center Foundation announcing that the new project construction is delayed due to international developments. The SMMC states in its press release verbatim: “As a lingering result of the pandemic, there have been delays in purchasing and shipping materials and steep increases in the prices of construction materials. These challenges make it unrealistic to build the hospital at the original price and by the original due date. The result of these discussions might be an increase of the overall SMGH construction budget caused by external factors that are beyond our control. Therefore, SMMC has started discussions to look into additional financing possibilities with the relevant stakeholders”

“Translation: Money done! Am I fear-mongering now?” the MP rhetorically asked, while pointing out that it is “downright impossible that all the money was spent on the pouring of a concrete foundation. That has to be the most expensive foundation in history.”

In 2018 the hospital signed a loan with a group of lenders and financial institutions in St. Maarten and Curaçao for $75 million. The World Bank is providing the hospital with a grant of $25 million from the Dutch trust fund set up after Hurricane Irma.

“For almost year I, along with MP Claudius Buncamper, have pointed out that there is something amiss at the hospital project. People weren’t getting paid on time, deadlines missed, FINSO having financial issues, no man-power at the work site and a reported mis-appropriation of funds from the project that has yet to be confirmed or denied by SMMC or the government,” MP Emmanuel said.

“There is always flimsy excuse at every juncture, including from the government. I even warned the current Minister of VSA not to believe what they are telling him and to investigate the project, in particular the financial aspects. Two weeks ago the Minister visited the site and said he would hold contractor FINSO and others accountable. Will they be held accountable now and how? And who will be held accountable? Will Emil Lee be held accountable for saddling the country with INSO now FINSO?”

The MP pointed out that several other projects on the island and in the surrounding islands has continued uninterrupted despite the pandemic. He said only on St. Maarten has two major projects run into financial issues in the millions.

“First the airport is now up to 150 million and now SMMC can’t even get past the pouring of the foundation and 100 million is gone. Mind you, not even the foundation is finished because the last pour of the main building was scheduled for the end of July 2022. Severe budget overruns seems to be the norm on St. Maarten projects with zero accountability being demanded by the government, who then could be seen as complicit in these debacles,” MP Emmanuel said.  

Besides the government, he went on to question the silence of the World Bank, the Steering Committee for the trust fund? and the NRPB in particular its Director Claret Connor? “Where is the oversight of these projects? Where are the explanations based in facts and evidence? Where is the World Bank who always touts its strict financial disciplines and protocols? Why do we only hear from Claret Connor when he is posing in a picture giving the airport another 20 million just so and without proper explanation? All of these entities have dropped the ball once again on yet another major project. The same projects they boast about when it’s convenient,” the MP said.

He continued: “The press release from SMMC has opened up a Pandora’s box of questions that must be answered. How much more money will the project need from lenders and the government? Is the government in a position to provide additional funding? Can the project continue in the meantime? Does “delay” mean all work halts? Have lenders been informed, when and what were the responses? Did government know? How healthy is FINSO financially? If 100 million has been spent thus far on just preparation work and a concrete foundation, how much is it going to take to complete the entire project? Will someone finally answer the question about the missing money and how much that was? Or am I fear-mongering again?” the MP concluded.        

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MP Wescot expresses her utter disappointment in the government’s rhetoric regarding relief to the population

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - It’s about a month ago, that the Minister of TEATT, Roger Lawrence said that he had made a proposal to “offer relief to consumers at the pumps”, Member of Parliament (MP) Sarah Wescot Williams said in a press statement.

“The minister went on to say that he had received the support of the council of ministers before he made the announcement publicly. In fact, the minister stated that he “had collaborated with his colleagues, the Minister of Justice, and the Minister of Finance. To add insult to injury, that relevant article in a local newspaper was pictured with the 3 aforementioned ministers, MP Wescot recalls.

The minister alluded to the role of his 2 colleagues in this respect, namely “to enact changes within our legislation….” And that the next step was to quickly submit draft legislation for its approval.

MP Wescot surmised that calculations were already made, as the minister of TEATT recounted a month ago that the proposal will reduce government’s duty revenue by approximately 14 percent.

“As member of parliament and very aware of the burden for so many households due to the rising cost of living, I have been looking at the buildup of the cost of fuel at the pumps and noting the income for government from TOT on 2 levels and excise duties.”

I have been promoting a combination of actions to be undertaken by the government to assist the community in general and the lower income earners in particular. How much longer must I be content with the promise that the basket of controlled goods will be expanded? That the 12.5% reduction in benefits will be reversed? That agriculture and fishery will receive a real boost to lower the cost of at least these food items.

MP Wescot is frustrated by the obvious flipflop last week: “Now there is a different tune coming from the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister, with the contradictory arguments such as, we are comparing apples and pears, when members of the media referenced to relief given by other islands in the region.”

What is clear, MP Wescot continued, is that the government according to the Minister of Finance is looking for income to substitute for the loss for government, if the relief is granted to the consumers on St. Maarten, and the Prime Minister did not help things by suggesting that legislation is going back and forth and sort of alluded that she was picking up the slack for the minister of TEATT, who was absent.

From these statements, I have to conclude that it is not the slowness of the legislative process to enact relief for the citizens, but rather the lack of cohesion between the government ministers and between the governing parties, MP Wescot once again made clear.

“Giving the minister the authority to adjust tax rates etc. via a lower legislative instrument, as proposed by a member of parliament will not solve the problem and is but a distraction from the real matter at hand.”

“Going by the very minimal concrete information provided by the respective ministers on this topic, I make the following assumptions and call upon the government to act.”

The member of parliament proceeded to provide the following synopsis: “Fourteen percent of the budgeted income for excise duties (7 m) amounts to 980.000 guilders. This is the “hole” the government apparently has to fill if relief is granted. The minister did however not reveal what the reduction would entail for the consumer.

However, if the government is serious about this relief (which I doubt) I propose the following approach:

In 2021, it was budgeted that the government would receive 9.4 million guilders in excises: in 2022 this amount was lowered to 7 million, because in 2020 only 6.6 million guilders were collected from excise duties.

Every quarter the governments provides the budgetary realization numbers. The full year 2021 yielded 9.5 million in excise duties. I therefore conclude, unless otherwise proven, that the excise income in 2022 will be over budget.”

From that synopsis, MP Wescot concluded her advice “that the government has under budgeted the excise duties amount 2022, and since the ministers seem to be staring down a black hole, my advice is to adjust that number in tune with a real projection and provide the relief to the consumer as promised, since other budget amendments are also projected.

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SMGH construction delays due to international developments

SINT MAARTEN (CAY HILL) - Due to international developments, St. Maarten General Hospital (SMGH) construction activities have slowed down over the recent weeks.

As a lingering result of the pandemic, there have been delays in purchasing and shipping materials and steep increases in the prices of construction materials. These challenges make it unrealistic to build the hospital at the original price and by the original due date. SMMC and the contractor (FINSO) are working on a solution to address the increased cost of materials and challenges with shipping.

The result of these discussions might be an increase of the overall SMGH construction budget caused by external factors that are beyond our control. Therefore, SMMC has started discussions to look into additional financing possibilities with the relevant stakeholders (e.g. the lenders, government). It is noteworthy that SMMC is not the only construction project that is affected with extraordinary price increases as many projects around the world must deal with the same issue.

As the outcome of these discussions and the chosen path forward is awaited, SMMC continues with improving the delivery of quality care, close to home. Various expansions and upgrades to SMMC’s current facilities, which will be highlighted in the coming weeks, have been realized recently with the support of the Trust Fund managed by The World Bank as SMMC aims to meet the local care demand for years to come. As such, SMMC will continue on its path forward in becoming Fit For The Future.

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SJIS launches ‘Be The Village, Foster A Child’ recruitment campaign

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The need for foster parents and for awareness about the needs of foster children and foster parents will be highlighted in a month-long campaign titled “Be The Village, Foster A Child”. This initiative of Stichting Justitiële Inrichtingen St. Maarten (SJIS) will run throughout May, Foster Care Awareness Month.

People interested in learning more about foster parenting or who are willing to open their home and hearts to a child or children in need of a stable and caring environment can do so at the month-long recruitment drive. The recruitment drive will he held outside of supermarkets every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday starting at Carrefour.

The connecting thread through all planned activities will be raising awareness about foster parents and recruitment of people who are willing to train to become much-needed foster parents and mentors for the country’s most vulnerable – its children.

Activities started off with the opening and launch of the campaign together with a recognition ceremony of foster parents on May 3 in the Government Administration Building.  The ceremony concentrated on the impact foster parenting has on the lives of children, the importance of foster parents, and the role family members, volunteers, mentors, child welfare professionals, policymakers and other members of the community who help children and youth in foster care find permanent homes and connections. Foster parents, mentors and a former foster child shared their experiences, and the dedication of foster parents were recognized in the ceremony, with the foster parent of the year being bestowed on Mrs. Veronica Benjamin of New Start Foundation.

Activities for children in connection with the theme of the month will be held throughout the month. These include a Cultural Carousel on May 7, during which the children will learn to make a variety of local dishes, dance, and storytelling, a Family Fun Day planned for Emilio Wilson Cultural and Historical Park on May 26, and a walk-a-thon on May 28 throughout Philipsburg.

A movie night and a fun day at Kid zone.

SJIS noted that May is a time to recognize that everyone in the community can each play a part in raising awareness about the need for foster parents and help enhance the lives of children and youth in foster care.   

It is important to increase the number of foster families and as such address the growing need for safe and nurturing homes for our children in which to live and develop, said SIJS.

SIJS is an independent foundation that forms part of the judicial chain. It is subsidized by the Ministry of Justice. The foundation is the umbrella for the Probation Office (responsible for assessing and management of persons who are in conflict with the law) and Family Guardianship Department (responsible for overseeing minors under court-appointed supervision). The Unit Foster Family Central is an important part of the family guardianship department. It is responsible for the recruitment, selection, and matching of foster parents, mentors and minors.

Foster Launch Photo Recognized Foster Parents

Foster Launch Photo Recognized Foster Parents.

 

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R4CR launches grant scheme information sessions

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - In the week of May 16 R4CR will organize the next round of information sessions for civil society organizations (CSOs) about obtaining grants through the R4CR program.

Officially called “Resources for Community Resilience” the R4CR program includes a grant scheme as funding mechanism for community and social rehabilitation initiatives on Sint Maarten and focuses on improving the capacity of local CSOs in reconstruction and resilience activities post hurricane Irma. Project activities by locally registered CSOs that are eligible for funding can cover subject areas such as neighborhood initiatives, sports, nature/environment, culture, poverty relief, day care centers/after school programs, youth employment, skills development, psycho-social support or preventing gender-based violence.

The upcoming information sessions will mark the fourth time that R4CR is organizing such gatherings to kick off the official call for project proposals. Since the launch of R4CR in 2020 the program has supported 35 small scale projects, disbursed or committed approximately US$ 1.7 million to local CSOs and provided free training to strengthen the capacity of local foundations.

On Monday, May 16, Tuesday, May 17th and Wednesday May 18th face-to-face sessions will be held at the R4CR office (Illidge Road 60 – the former WIB branch office) from 6:30-8:00 PM. 

On Thursday, May 19th a ‘Zoom’ video session will be organized for those who were unable to attend the sessions in person. The time for this online session is from 6:00-7:00 PM.

Online registrations are required due to limited seating (max 16 persons per session) for the in-person sessions. Interested CSOs can register online by clicking the following link: https://bit.ly/R4CR-Registration-Info-Sessions

The link for the online Zoom session will be sent after registration.

The R4CR program is financed by the Government of the Netherlands via the Sint Maarten Trust Fund. The latter is administered by the World Bank and implemented by the NRPB (National Recovery Program Bureau). The R4CR program is locally managed by the VNGI (International Cooperation Agency of the Association of Netherlands Municipalities) in close cooperation with Foresee Foundation and other local partners.

For more information about the R4CR program or an overview of all current projects please visit www.r4cr.org or the Facebook page (R4CRSXM).

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MP Wescot-Williams lauds SZV’s recent activity, but says there is much more to it

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - “Good Move by SZV, sponsor of the Walk to Prevent Immobility organized by the Sint Maarten Police Pensioners and Retirees Association,” Member of Parliament (MP) Sarah Wescot Williams said in a press statement on Monday.

We of the U 2 CAN MOVE Organization were elated to see the large turnout for the early Saturday walkathon organized by the Sint Maarten Police Pensioners and Retirees Association and sponsored by the SZV. Several members of the U 2 CAN MOVE Fitness program joined the large group of persons early on May 7th in an appropriately 6K walk, the MP stated in a recent release.

In commenting on the event, U 2 CAN MOVE founder, MP Sarah Wescot-Williams emphasized the importance of physical mobility.

“I always motivate my members with the phrase that it does not matter what you do, once your activity contributes to bodily movements. Walking is a natural exercise and since we have been blessed with such a beautiful climate, we can surely walk to prevent many diseases and ailments that can affect our health.

The risks of walking are minimal, and all steps count towards better health. The evidenced benefits of walking, especially if you push for some moderate exertions are numerous. Evidenced benefits such as lower risk of heart disease, lower cholesterol levels and lower risk of diabetes, improved sleep and more. So, the brisker the walk, the better the results. In controlling our weight, walking does burn calories and should be part of a healthy lifestyle.

MP Wescot in her statement regarding the “health walk”, touched on the larger picture of the overall health of our nation, an area of continued concern for the MP.

Approximately twelve years ago, a study on St. Maarten revealed that almost 40% of the children studied were overweight and some 54% were obese and that the leading diseases in adults were high blood pressure and diabetes.

“Today we talk a lot about cutting health cost, reducing the national health bill and collecting outstanding sickness premiums. Needless to say, that several areas of our health system are in need of reform. However, there should be a concerted effort to improve better health and the overall wellbeing of our population. “

This should be based on the health data of our country through the long-awaited Health Information System and with the focus that prevention is always better than cure. This should be the motto of all health agencies and providers, beginning with the ministry of public health. Not sporadically, but based on a vision, the MP added.

If we wish to truly perform sustainable reform actions in the health sector, much more urgency needs to be demonstrated for the overall health of our community, for updated health data and for universal health coverage, MP Wescot stated in a not so subtle reference to the ongoing discussions regarding reforms.

mp sww ins1 mon0905

 

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WIB’s SXM Extravaganza set for May 21

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The general public is invited to the Windward Islands Bank (WIB) WIB’s SXM Extravaganza Show at the Belair Community Center. The event will take place on the Saturday 21, May 2022 from 10am to 6pm.

WIB will bring together several local business suppliers to display their products and services such as Home Construction & Essentials, Home security systems, solar water heaters, Generators, Home Office, Kitchen, Realtors, Hurricane-Preparation, Vehicles, Boats and more.

WIB SXM Extravaganza promises to provide a one stop shop atmosphere offering great rates and discounts. 

The WIB’s SXM Extravaganza will be an informative, fun filled day with a great selection of products, food & drinks, and a kiddy’s corner. You can obtain relevant information from the experts as WIB’s Sales & Services officers, Online banking ambassadors and the BSure Insurance team will be present to assist with all financing possibilities. Now is the best time to invest and enjoy savings.

Come let us tell you what you qualify for.                            

Businesses interested in participating in WIB’s SXM Extravaganza can contact Ferdinand Beauperthuy at 546-2865 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Festival Village Renamed after National Cultural Icon Jocelyn Arndell

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Sint Maarten’s Carnival Festival Village on Pond Island has been renamed, the Jocelyn Arndell Festival Village, after the person who contributed significantly to the identity, development, and progression of Sint Maarten’s culture.

On Tuesday evening May 3rd, 2022, during a ceremonial launch, the unveiling of the Jocelyn Arndell Festival Village sign took place at the entrance of the Festival Village.

The event which was hosted by the Honorable Minister of VROMI Mr. Egbert Jurendy Doran, also saw in attendance His Excellency the Governor of Sint Maarten, Drs. Eugene Holiday, Honorable Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs, Chairlady of Parliament Grisha Heyliger-Marten, Honorable Minister of Education Culture Youth and Sport Drs. Rodolphe Samuel, Honorable Minister of Finance Ardwell Irion, Honorable President of the Collectivity Louis Mussington, Chair of Parliament Aruba and Curacao as well as Members of these respective Parliaments, Mrs. Ingrid Arndell, wife of the late Jocelyn Arndell and family, other invited family and friends of the late J. Arndell, St. Maarten Government Buildings Foundation SOG President Kurt Ruan and St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation President Alston Lourens.

The event started with words of welcome by the MC for the evening Mr. Fernando Clark, followed by a prayer by Mr. Harold Richardson.

This was followed by the Sint Maarten Song which was rendered by Mr. Leroy Brooks, known as King Beau Beau.

A heartwarming tribute was rendered by the Honorable Minister of VROMI Egbert Jurendy Doran.

In his speech, the Minister of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure (VROMI) Egbert Doran highlighted Arndell’s hard work, dedication, and contributions in his function as a Civil Servant as well as towards the cultural development of Sint Maarten often going above and beyond the call of duty to serve his country.

The Minister stated that in 1970 Mr. Jocelyn Arndell and his team were the initiators of the cultural village and festivities that have brought us to where we are today in terms of it being Sint Maarten’s largest cultural festivity.

Minister Doran who quoted the late Martin Luther King’s words: “Everybody can be great because everybody can serve” and also encouraged everyone to play their role in serving Sint Maarten.

“If Mr. Jocelyn Arndell had not served, we would not be standing here today,” the Minister stated.

One of the biggest highlights of the evening was the crowd-moving renditions given by four (4) surviving members of the Tanny and the Boys band, of which Mr. Arndell who loved music with a passion was a member for decades where he played the guiro, the marimba, and the accordion.

Representing the family, Mr. Arndell’s son Everard (Ebby) Arndell, stated that his father, although--not seeking any--received various recognitions and awards throughout his lifetime, but that the naming the Festival Village in his honor, was like “lighting the candle on top of his cake.”

He expressed his gratitude to Minister Doran and the team and stated that if he had the opportunity to tell his father that the Festival Village was named after him, his father would have asked him “which great mind came up with that idea?”

The evening continued with more speeches and encouraging words given by The Honorable Minister Samuel, Mr. Kurt Ruan, and Mr. Alston Lourens.

During the unveiling of the sign that stated “Jocelyn Arndell Festival Village”, a beautiful rendition by Mr. Isidore York and Dow’s Musical Foundation was given.

The event closed off with a rendition by King Beau Beau with his song Sint Maarten Sweet, together with the Flag Lady Aishira Cecilia, who was joined by Roadmarch Queen Singing Olivia, Groovy Soca King Magicx, and the 2022 reigning Carnival Queens Talya Panthophlet and Doraniya Pascal.

The Honorable Minister Egbert Jurendy Doran wishes to thank the Council of Ministers, his Cabinet, the Secretary of VROMI and his Team, the family of Mr. Jocelyn Arndell, all participants in the program, and all who made it possible for the event to have been an astounding success.

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350,000+ Cruise Passengers for First Four Months of 2022. Ship Occupancy Increasing for Slow Months

PORT ST. MAARTEN – So far for 2022, Port St. Maarten has catered to 350,507 cruise guests who visited the destination via 282 cruise ship calls for the first four months – January to April - of the year.

Port St. Maarten Group Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Alexander Gumbs said on Thursday that the cruise industry continues to deal with the challenges brought on by COVID-19 and now more recently high energy costs attributed to a combination of global economic factors, supply chain issues and the war between Russia and Ukraine.

“We remain confident for the coming months as we approach the slow season. As we enter this period, multiple cruise ships are being scrapped or sold thereby limiting the tonnage in the Caribbean Basin.

“Our performance has been positive. Occupancy onboard cruise ships have been slowly increasing as more people decide to take a cruise in the coming months. In comparison with figures for the first quarter of this year, cruise ship occupancy levels were hovering around 45 per cent, but we have been experiencing an average of above 75 per cent, and currently some vessels are already nearing 100 per cent occupancy.

“We continue to remain focused and planning in a strategic manner along with the cruise industry and other stakeholders as we overcome the challenges that we all have been confronted with for the past two+ years.

“By August 2022, according to the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), all cruise lines who are members of CLIA should have their ships back in operation. This is also good for St. Maarten as it can translate into more cruise ship calls to the island in the coming months leading into the 2022-2023 high season,” PSG CEO Alexander Gumbs said on Thursday.

In January the island received 92,491 guests and 88 cruise ship calls; February 82,233 and 79 calls; March 116,773 and 72 calls; and April 59,010 and 43 calls. In 2021, the destination received 243,450 cruise guests and 383 cruise ship calls.

CLIA, the leading organization that represents the global cruise community in its Cruise Industry 2022 Outlook Report, said that CLIA ocean-going cruise lines have welcomed more than six million guests onboard since resuming operations in July 2020.

“Cruise tourists, and the money they spend, create jobs and opportunities for local communities around the world. Every 24 cruisers create one fill-time equivalent job. Cruisers spend an average of US$750 per passenger in port cities over the course of a typical seven-day cruise. Six in 10 people who have taken a cruise say that they have returned to a destination that they first visited via cruise ship.” - CLIA

The cruise industries leading public health protocols have facilitated the resumption of cruise tourism around the world, which has put people back to work and reinvigorating local and national cruise tourism economies.

CLIA says more than 75 per cent of ocean-going member capacity of cruise ships have returned to service and taking guests to destinations around the world. Nearly 100 per cent of cruise ships are projected to be in operation by August 2022.

CLIA ocean-going member cruise lines are projected to debut 16 new cruise ships in 2022, including five LNG-powered vessels and nine expedition ships.

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