Insight Caribbean Insight 'Steady' progress for St. Maarten By Gay Nagle Myers / October 30, 2012 Share 1 -- St. Maarten is optimistic as its gears up for the peak season, bolstered by new lift, resort enhancements and the debut of new immigration cards so visitors arriving and departing Princess Juliana Airport can do it faster.The destination even has a new area code: 721, replacing 599 (U.S. callers dial St. Maarten numbers as they would any stateside number).“Stayover passenger traffic increased 7% increase from January through July, and hotel occupancies rose 16.7% over the same period in 2011,” said Romeo Pantophlet, minister of tourism, economic affairs, transportation and telecommunications.“Even September, traditionally the slowest month of the year, had increases in both visitors and hotel stays,” he said.The minister is confident that year-end figures will reflect the same “steady increases in passenger traffic and hotel occupancy.”New airlift includes the Delta launch of year-round nonstop weekly service from New York Kennedy on Dec. 15.Resort enhancements include the ongoing $3 million refurbishment project at the Sonesta Maho Beach Resort & Casino, marking the resort’s conversion to an all-inclusive property with four restaurants and several bars and lounges in addition to entertainment, water sports, retail shops and the Casino Royale. The Coral Beach Club is adding a pool for the use of guests not staying in a villa (villas include private pools).Aquamania Adventures opened at Divi Little Bay Beach Resort, offering guests a choice of parasailing, waverunners, deep sea fishing, scuba and snorkeling, sunset sails, dinner cruises and day trips to neighboring islands.On the immigration front, St. Maarten developed a Tourism Statistical Data Information System TSIS, along with new immigration cards to facilitate easier and faster clearance at the airport.The new TSIS scanners are in place at Princess Juliana Airport and the immigration cards are available on flights serving St. Maarten and at counters in the arrival hall. Once filled out, the new cards are scanned into a device at the front of the immigration booths. The traveler then proceeds to the immigration officer with the cards. Departure cards are available at hotels and airline counters at time of check-in before travelers reach the security checkpoint.