It took until the mid-50's to recognize that tourism could be one of the major economical backbones of St. Maarten. As of that time, Mr. A.C. (Claude) Wathey, Mr. Clem Labega and other influential public and private leaders commenced launching an initiative to develop the island into a preferred tourist destination in the region.
Travel writers were invited to the island to write about the island and slowly, as a result of these travel articles back in the United States of America, a few adventurous visitors came to the island. In those days there was only one guesthouse, the Seaview Hotel with only five rooms. The Passangrahan Royal Inn had three rooms, and in 1955 an enterprising Dutch group arrived to construct the Little Bay Beach Hotel with twenty-four rooms.
Prior to the construction of the Deep Water Pier in Pointe Blanche, the wharf in Philipsburg was the island's principal port entry for inter-island vessels that included the Tricksy, The Blue Peter, the Hertha, the Aura, the Catalina, and the Antillia. There was one ship per month from the United States of America and sea connection with CuraÃ§ao and Aruba was twice a month.
Being strategically located, St. Maarten experienced continuous growth in annual cruise passenger arrivals. In 1980, 194 cruise ships called at Great Bay Port while in 1989 that number increased by more than 2 ½ times to 497 ships. There were 105,000 passenger arrivals in 1980 as compared to 616,910 cruise passengers at the end of 1990, reflecting a strong growth in cruise. In the year 2003, for the first time well over 1 million visitors were welcomed to the shores of St. Maarten and nowadays, 1.5 million visitors enjoy the many attractions of the island anually.