Author Archives: Terrance Rey

Terrance Rey
About Terrance Rey
Terrance Rey is owner and managing director of Let’s Travel, Travel Anywhere and AirStMaarten. Terrance Rey has 22 years experience in the travel business as a travel agent, tour operator, charter broker and as an internet travel entrepreneur. You can email Terrance Rey directly via terrance@anykeyservices.com with any questions you may have relating to St. Maarten/St. Martin.

Rainforest Adventures rockland estate, St. Maarten Nominated for the 2018 Seatrade Cruise Award for Innovative Shorex of the Year

PHILIPSBURG, ST. MAARTEN (August 22, 2018) – Rainforest Adventures is pleased to announce that Rockland Estate St. Maarten’s The Flying Dutchman has been chosen as a finalist for the 2018 Seatrade Cruise Award for “Innovative Shorex of the Year.” A line up of independent judges will select the winners who will be announced at Seatrade Cruise Med 2018 on September 19, 2018, at Pátio da Galé, Lisbon, Portugal.

“Just like The Flying Dutchman, we have had quite a challenging and thrilling ‘ride’ to get to this gratifying moment,” says Scott Swietanski, General Manager of Rockland Estate. “This nomination would not have been possible without the support of our amazing staff, the wonderful people of St. Maarten and the government all coming together to rebuild after Hurricane Irma.”

The “Innovative Shorex of the Year” award recognizes a company or individual who has created, sourced or introduced an innovative shore excursion over the past 12 months.  The Flying Dutchman, the steepest zipline in the world and the main attraction at Rockland Estate, has guaranteed thrill-seekers the ride of a lifetime as they’re dropped 1,050 feet in elevation from the top of Sentry Hill over a 2,800-foot span. Even guests who are afraid of heights credit the kind and knowledgeable staff for a fun, fantastic experience, both at the start of the ride and with “wobbly legs” at the end.

Innovative Shorex Finalist 2018

For more information and bookings email sales.sxm@rainforestadventure.com, visit www.rainforestadventure.com/st-maarten or call toll-free from North America at +1.866.SKYTRAM (1.886.759.8726). Follow us @rainforestadventuresxm on Facebook and Instagram. Rainforest Adventures Rockland Estate St. Maarten has received the 2018 USA Today Travel 10Best Readers’ Choice Award as one of the Best Caribbean Attractions and is nominated for the 2018 Seatrade Cruise Award for Innovative Shorex of the Year.

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About Rainforest Adventures

Each year over 400,000 visitors experience Rainforest Adventures eco-parks located in Costa Rica, St. Lucia, Panama, Jamaica and St. Maarten. In addition to more than 22 years of experience, in construction and operations of eco-parks, Rainforest Adventures owns and conserves 2,700 acres of rainforest, home to more than 1,000 species of birds and 2,000 kinds of exotic plants. With over 400 employees, it also offers sustainability programs for visitors and local schoolchildren designed for the protection and conservation of the environment. For more information visit www.rainforestadventure.com.

About Seatrade Cruise Awards

Seatrade Cruise Awards forms part of the series of global Seatrade events, websites and publications that covers every aspect of the cruise and maritime industries, bringing together key people to encourage innovation and to produce powerful learning, networking and promotional platforms. Founded in 1970, the Seatrade brand is part of the events portfolio for the world’s second largest media and event organizer, UBM.

https://www.seatradecruiseevents.com/awards/seatrade-cruise-awards-2018-finalists

Topper's Rhum celebrates International Rhum Day

PHILIPSBURG, SINT MAARTEN – AUGUST 16, 2018 – Topper’s Rhum Distillery celebrates international rum day in a big way by hosting Everything St. Maarten / St. Martin JMB Website Supporters Summer 2018 Island Party. The well-attended cocktail party was filled with great music, food, fun and of course rhum!

This party was all about the rhum (French spelling of “rum”). Guests were greeted at the door with a welcome drink called “Rhum for Your Life” which was Topper’s entry into the post Irma Category 5 Cocktail Competition. Guest were invited to sample all of six Toppers’ commercial rhums as well as some of their 60 specialty rhums which are only available at the distillery such as Nelson’s Blood, Jalapeño Lime, Dutch Drop, Dark Chocolate, Bonfire, Passion Fruit and Soursop to name a few. Guests were given mini-tours of the distillery by tour manager “Crazy Dave” Herbert, and a discount certificate toward their full-scale distillery tour.

The food was catered by Topper’s Restaurant & Bar. Chef Kimar prepared ribs, chicken kebabs, fish skewers and crudités which guest had fun dipping in their choice of six delicious and unique rhum infused sauces some of which are available for sale at the distillery.

The Topper’s family also made a heartwarming toast to Renee Adams-Pereira who was a dear friend and worked for the distillery. Renee sadly lost her battle to cancer just the night before.

Topper’s Rhum, a truly locally made product, is a world-class premium rhum that is handmade, bottled, and packaged with precision right here in Cole Bay, St. Maarten. Topper’s Rhum uses only all natural premium ingredients and no preservatives. They are committed to producing the world’s best tasting rhum and flavored rhum spirits using the highest standards of quality. They are re-inventing rhum by continually innovating and delivering unique products to their customers worldwide. The company is very environmentally conscientious and well known for their signature reusable swing-top bottles. This official St. Maarten rhum is the only spirit distilled and exported from St. Maarten. They currently export to 6 countries and over 21 states in the USA and are the official rhum of the Dutch Army. By constantly expanding overseas, they are also notably promoting St. Maarten internationally. In addition, the products are sold online to almost anywhere in the world. Topper’s Rhum has been awarded 24 medals given by the most prominent rum tasting contests in the world and recently won USA Today’s 10Best Caribbean Rum Distillery award.

Topper’s Rhum Distillery is one of the top unique places to visit on St. Maarten, according to the St. Maarten Tourism Bureau. They are open from 9:00am – 4:00pm Monday – Friday and 9:00am – 12:00pm on Saturdays for free rhum tasting and shopping.

Tours are available for $20 at 10:00am and 4:00pm Monday – Saturday by calling +1-721-520-0008 or booking online at www.toppersrhumtours.com and Sundays are available by appointment only.

For more information about the Topper’s Rhum Distillery please contact the Topper’s Rhum Press Officer at: press@toppersrhum.com or visit the website www.toppersrhumtours.com

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 About the Topper’s Rhum: Topper’s Rhum, established in St. Maarten in March 2008, is committed to producing the world’s best tasting rhum and flavored rhum spirits using the highest standards of quality. Topper’s Rhum Distillery was established in Cole Bay in November 2012. We strive to continually innovate and deliver cutting edge products to our customers worldwide and are experts in delivering unprecedented customer service. For more information, visit our website at www.toppersrhum.com or www.toppersrhumtours.com

St. Maarten's tourism product in a post-Irma era - 7 parts series

From the start of St. Maarten’s decision to become a tourism destination we have focused our efforts on recreational tourism. Basically on our “sea, sun, sand” product. Being the smallest land mass divided between two countries helps. And we’re also duty free. These features and having coined the name “The Friendly Island” has attracted millions of travelers to our shores over the years.

But in this day and age, Caribbean destinations must diversify their product in order to remain relevant. St. Maarten is no different.

In a post-Irma era, what will St. Maarten’s tourism product become?

The coming days we will answer that question in 6 parts. This is the intro. In part two (2), we will look at how hurricane Irma can possibly be a blessing in disguise for St. Maarten.

Angry Waves at Belair

Photo caption: Angry waves beating down on the beach of Belair. If we don’t change ourselves, adapt and innovate our tourism product, nature will force us to. Photo by Milton Pieters.

Part 2

With the above question in mind, hurricane Irma can possibly be looked at as a blessing in disguise. The devastation caused by Irma has sent the island a few steps back but we, of course, are looking to come back 100 times better than before. You may be asking, where’s the silver lining? Businesses have closed and people have left and buildings were destroyed. Nonetheless, this gives St. Maarten the chance at a fresh start. It gives the island a chance at providing our visitors, and the locals, a different view of our 37 sq. mile beauty. Thinking post Irma allows us the chance to invest our time into cultural tourism and/or sports tourism.

Damaged Cupecoy area

Photo caption: With the slogan let’s build back better, not only is the resilience of the St. Maarten people put to the test after the damages caused by hurricane Irma, but also the creativity and the innovative spirit of the people and its entrepreneurs will be significantly tested. Photo by Milton Pieters.

In part 3 we will look at ways of expanding our tourism product with culture.

Part 3

St. Maarten, like every other Caribbean island, is rich with history. However, this history is not taught and shared enough, with locals and foreigners alike, and this needs to change. And what better a time to venture down a new path than when the island is in need of rebranding? When we need something to believe in and build on. The exploration of cultural tourism allows teaching natives, as well as visitors, about what St. Maarten’s been through and has to offer.

Fort Louis overlooking Marigot waterfront

Photo caption: This photo is a mixture of culture, history and nature, showing that in a post-Irma environment, we have to focus on sustainable integration of these elements in a balanced manner if everything is work properly and consistently. St. Maarten as a tourist destination cannot survive if we do not focus on sustaining all these elements together. Photo by HIlbert Haar.

Part 4

The island currently has a new head of the Culture department and a temporary government in place. What better a time for new ideas and new programs to be enacted to build up the cultural strength of the people? The Great Salt Pond, The Simpson Bay Lagoon, The St. Martin Book Fair, St. Maarten Carnival, among so many other great things can be properly introduced and taught to the people of St. Maarten. The people then in turn become the natural ambassadors of the island and the treasures it holds. What is most fascinating about cultural tourism is its ability to benefit a destination in two ways. It allows for the host population to better know their land and hold an unwavering pride in what they have. Also, it gives the opportunity to teach those that visit just what differentiates the destination from every other destination that they come across.

Clara Reyes and students fully engaged

Photo caption: The new head of the Culture Department, Clara Reyes, fully engaging students at the St. Maarten Academy pre-St. Maarten’s Day in November 2017.

In part 5 we will look at other tourism options available to us.

Part 5

Sports tourism is another option. The opportunity for St. Maarten to become the sports hub of our surrounding islands would be easily attainable. For example, Video X Games (VXG), an e-sports competition held a few years ago, showed us that the region is ready and willing for a reason to visit the Sunshine City. After the success of VXG a few other islands have attempted to pick up where they left off. Fortunately for us, none were able to gain the popularity that VXG brought. With the right management and sponsorship St. Maarten can easily pick up where VXG left off. Other options in sports tourism are marathons, bicycle racing and swimming. The Sunset Triple Mini Triathlon is a perfect example of what is possible in this area as well.

Sunset Beach Triathlon - 20180318 MP

Photo caption: Triathletes running to the plunge in the waves on Maho Beach during the Sunset Triple Mini Triathlon held on Sunday, March 18th, 2018. Photo by Milton Pieters.

In part 6 we wrap up this series with our conclusion.

Why Americans Like To Buy Property in The Caribbean?

Merely mentioning the word Caribbean brings up images of a tropical paradise in the minds of most Americans. Except for those living in southern California, Florida, and Texas, most Americans have a strong desire to one day be able to buy a second home or a vacation home in the Caribbean. There are many reasons behind this desire but the prominent one is a chance to live a carefree life on an island where they can enjoy warm and sunny weather conditions all round the year.

Interestingly, the Caribbean begins just 50 miles from the Gulf of Mexico. But this proximity is of advantage to only those who live in Miami or other parts of Florida. It takes just a few hours for you to reach the Bahamas, Jamaica or Puerto Rico in the Caribbean. Noteworthy is that Puerto Rico is one of the Caribbean island that is a part of the United States.

Allure of a relaxed and carefree lifestyle

Coming back to the main question of what motivates Americans to opt for a home in the Caribbean, it is mainly the desire to get away from the stressful life of the U.S. cities. You go to the Caribbean on a vacation only with no worries of work. This is the perception most Americans have in their minds.

Possibility to live a more affordable life

There can be no two opinions about the fact that the mad rush of Americans to buy properties in the Caribbean has pushed the prices upwards. If you buy a property on popular Caribbean islands like the Bahamas, Aruba, Jamaica and St. Barths, you may find that prices have become exorbitant there. But the Caribbean is much bigger than most people assume they are. You can still find a place in the Caribbean to fulfill your dream of a life full of sun and sand that is quite affordable. One such destination is St. Maarten, a Dutch island that is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

More money in your pocket

One reason why many Americans dream of buying a property in the Caribbean and living there is because of them being tax havens. In most of these islands there is no capital gains tax. If you sell your property in the future, you are not required to pay any capital gains taxes to the local government, and this is a big advantage in the eyes of many Americans.

For the retirees or those approaching retirement, the perks of a laid back lifestyle coupled with gorgeous settings are too big to drop the idea of buying a property in the Caribbean.

Cooper House from beach

Princess Juliana International SXM Airport Reopens after Hurricanes

NEW YORK, NY (October 9, 2017) – After damages sustained during Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Jose in September 2017, the Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM) in Dutch St. Maarten will reopen to commercial flights on October 10, 2017. SXM is a critical airport for much of the Caribbean, and its return to active service will bring much-needed aid and tourism back to St. Maarten as well as neighboring islands.

Delta Airlines, Seaborne, Pawa Dominicana, Insel Air, and Winair will resume service at SXM on Oct. 10. Seaborne will be code sharing with American Airlines, JetBlue, and Delta. Additional airlines will announce their service in the coming days.

“While damages to our airport are extensive, we are incredibly pleased with the progress made to repair it,” said Director of Tourism Rolando Brison. “St. Maarten is both a friendly island and a resilient one, and we are excited to share our island with the world once again.”

SXM Airport roof repairThe airport will reopen in a phased approach. Employees of SXM Airport and volunteers have worked tirelessly, their dedication resulting in the reopening of the airport’s two smaller terminals. The main terminal is currently under repair, and its reopening anticipated mid-2018.

“My friends, trust in the process,” said Minister of Tourism Mellissa Arrindell-Doncher in an official statement. “Adversity gives birth to opportunity and struggle builds character: St. Maarten will rise again, better and stronger. ”

Additional information about the airport and tourism recovery efforts will be released as soon as it becomes available.

Airlift vital to recovery process St. Maarten

SXM Airport — Just as airlift is vital to St. Maarten’s tourism economy, so it is for the recovery process to normalize the situation on the island, to fly in aid and relief goods, food and water, to evacuate tourists and other temporary visitors, workers and their families and to offer an escape for those in urgent need of medical care, for those with young children and elderly family members and for those who have lost everything on the island during the passing of Hurricane Irma.

Although the SXM Airport was badly damaged, the clean up of the runway was quickly organized and military aircrafts, such as CC-130 Hercules aircrafts, and humanitarian flights were soon landing on the airport. The Dutch Marines moved quickly to put the airport under military command. The Minister of Justice approved a list of airlines that would be allowed to land at the airport to fly out passengers.

Luckily,Air Traffic Controller Tower SXM Airport with Coast Guard the air traffic control (ATC) tower did not incur any major damage. With the assistance of the ATC in San Juan, Puerto Rico, flights were quickly organized into SXM Airport. Military aircrafts could be seen landing daily into St. Maarten and many evacuation flights were executed. Even pets and other animals managed to be evacuated by caring travelers departing the island.

Many news and camera crews arrived on the island on military aircrafts. Initially, mainly from Curacao and Holland on Dutch Marine and Coast Guard aircrafts as his royal highness, the King of the Kingdom of The Netherlands arrived on St. Maarten on Monday night with the press in his entourage. Quickly, other press agencies, including CNN arrived on the island.

On Thursday, September 14th, a news crew from ABC News flew in from Puerto Rico on a private charter operated by Tradewind Aviation with the assistance of AirStMaarten and Halley Aviation Services. If St. Maarten was not already on the map, it is definitely now at the center of world with millions of viewers getting daily reports on the devastation caused by one of the most powerful hurricanes seen in the past 30 years with record-breaking storm statistics. The damage is already estimated to be well over 2,5 billion US dollars.

An image that will remained ingrained in the minds of many people is that of hundreds of people queuing up to be evacuated off the island. This situation has left many with mixed feelings ranging from anger to despair to sighs of relief. Long lines formed for days after the hurricane at the SXM Airport. The military exercised strict control over the situation and at no time did things get our of hand at the airport. So far all people stranded on the island have managed to be evacuated. Either via Curacao to The Netherlands or via San Juan, Puerto Rico, to the USA.

Local airline company Winair, despite having undergone complete devastation of its head offices at the SXM Airport leaving only the mangled remains of the structure behind, executed evacuation flights to Antigua for passengers connecting to the UK and also to St. Kitts and later to Saba and St. Eustatius.

Noteworthy, is the actions of the Dominican airline company, PAWA, that flew non-stop after the hurricane to fly in aid and relief goods and to evacuate and repatriate Dominicanos living on St. Maarten with their MD80 aircraft.

Other airlines operating evacuation flights were American Airlines, Jetblue and Delta Airlines. Also many private jet aircrafts were seen landing and taking off from the SXM Airport as well.

It is clear that the SXM Airport, despite the crippled infrastructure caused by the damages to the main terminal building’s arrival and departure halls, is playing a vital role in getting people out of the country and the necessary aid, help and relief into Hurricane Irma Damages SXM Airportthe island.

With the demand for more airlift in the form of military, humanitarian, commercial and private flights, the military and the local authorities will have to make all efforts to get the SXM Airport fully operational again and this port will be critical to the recovery and rebuilding process St. Maarten will have to undergo to allow the flow of cargo, tourists and US dollars back into the country and into the island’s local economy.

Click here to see more related photos on our travel partner’s Facebook page.

SCELL supports Tourism with Heritage, Culture and History boot camp

GREAT BAY - SCELL, the University of St. Martin’s School of Continuing Education and Life Long Learning supports tourism with the launch of its Heritage, Culture and History boot camp on October 24 and 25 from 8.30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and on November 9 and 10. The education-based boot camp will provide participants with “cultural intelligence on the island’s historical landmarks, on both the Dutch and French side,” the school says in a press statement. Participants will learn “impressive facts” and “intriguing history” about the island’s culture and that of surrounding islands.

“SCELL is convinced that the 2-day boot camp will directly enhance the island’s Tourism,” SCELL-Director Dr. Natasha Gittens says. “In short, it will ensure that every member of the community interfacing with tourism understands the beautiful heritage, history and culture of their motherland, which in turn will ensure a memorable experience for every guest, vacationer, tourist and traveler to the island. The biggest reward in my opinion is that tourists will want to revisit the island once they hear about all the marvelous activities, landmarks and cultural activities we offer and return for multiple visits. This is a win – win for the island and the vacationers.”

Visitors have indicated time and time again that they want to find out more about the foods of the country, learn about historical monuments, and understand the diverse melting pot of people that reside on the island from all over the world, Gittens said. “They are interested in the facts about our ongoing historical developments and triumphs. However, we need to ensure that the information that is exchanged between the local community and the tourists are facts. This means we are obliged to equip our ambassadors of tourism, the St. Maarten people, with the facts about the history of our beautiful island.”

The boot camp will be facilitated by historians that have academic degrees, studied the history of the island extensively and reside on the island. They will teach participants the “true facts” by engaging them in interactive discussions, introducing videos, films and books and fostering fun, cooperative learning exercises that will reach every learner (i.e. participant) at their individualized level of learning. “SCELL is fully committed to supporting the economic sustainability of the island and this is yet another approach to ensure that an important need is filled as we approach high season,” Gittens stated.

SCELL will offer additional boot camps in October and November. The cost is $399.

Business Writing boot camp, October 11 and 12, Management and Leadership, October 17 and 18, Supervisory boot camp, October 18 and 19, Professional boot camp, October 12 and 13, Email Etiquette boot camp, October 20 and 21, Culture, Heritage and History boot camp, October 24 and 25 and November 9 and 10, Time Management and Project Deadlines boot camp, October 27 and 28.

For more information contact Ms. Blyden @ Jacqueline.Blyden@usm.sx or call 543-3710 or 554-2437. Visit the SCELL website at http://SCELL.usmonline.onl.

SHTA funds marketing representative in USA

GREAT BAY – – Earlier this year the SHTA presented the Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication with various initiatives to boost the occupancy during the summer slow season and beyond.  The first part of the initiatives included a private public partnership that launched online marketing campaigns through the most visited travel web sites Expedia and TripAdvisor.

These campaigns as of the mid-September resulted in an increase bookings via Expedia of 17% and increase in occupancy tax collected of 24% year over year for the same period, thus showing an excellent return on the investment made by government and private sector.  In addition to these on line campaigns, SHTA took four printed ads in USA Today newspaper to support the other efforts.

Unfortunately, this year St. Maarten discontinued the services of our USA marketing representative, leaving the island without a vital marketing presence in traditionally important markets for the island like the East Coast of the U.S.  SHTA recognizes the importance of continuity and presence in the marketplace and decided to fund the participation of the former representative in the US to attend important trade shows in that market:

October 26th – Maine ASTA (American Society of Travel Agents) / South Portland, Maine

November 2nd – Workers in Travel (WITS) Meet Your Rep Night Troy, NY
November 3rd – Vermont Society of Travel Agents (VSTA) / Burlington, Vermont.
Tuesday, November 15th – CCRA (formerly OSSN) Haddon Township, NJ
Wednesday, November 16th – ACT (Association of Central New Jersey Travel Agents) Educational Training – Brielle NJ

Although online business is very important and continues to grow in prominence, SHTA recognizes that traditional travel agencies and tour operators still drive an enormous amount of business to the island and they should not be abandoned or ignored.

The SHTA is dedicated to bringing quality to all aspects of life on St. Maarten by promoting sustainable economic development for its members in cooperation with the social partners and the creation of a fair marketplace.

Tourism for all

Minister of Tourism’s World Tourism Day Message:

I would like to recognize the importance of World Tourism Day, which falls on the 27th of September of each year. The theme for 2016 is “Tourism for All – Promoting Universal Accessibility”. It is a conscious reminder to us all around the world to continue to strive for integration in order to improve each other potential in tourism, and to promote a mutual understanding of different cultures and traditions.

We have to be realistic about where we are now as a tourism destination and how we can strive to be better. We must embrace the efforts that have already been made and encourage everyone to continue going in the right direction towards making our Island more accessible. Because tourism, which has grown into the world’s largest industry, St Maarten recognizes the significance of this critically important industry and the positive effects is has and will continue to have on our beautiful Island. Government, the various stakeholders and most importantly the people of this Island, must constantly challenge ourselves to ensure that our tourism product is both environmentally and economically sustainable, and that we continue to offer quality services and products of the highest quality in order to exceed the expectations of our visitors.

However, while these are important goals that we share for our island’ tourism, I would ask that we reflect for a moment on the many person “the elderly and/or the disabled” who are not able to discover the beauty of our island due to limited accessibility to certain places and facilities, which would otherwise have enabled them to enjoy our island to a substantially higher extent while visiting for pleasure. After all, the incipiency of the tourism industry itself was based on the premise of one word: “Discovery”. But should disability, social factors or age be a limiting factor in discovering the beauty of St Maarten?

On September 27th the world will once again be celebrating World Tourism Day, an opportunity for all countries in the world to recognize the importance of tourism as a vessel to foster better “Accessibility for All”, giving us at least one moment to reflect on “Promoting Universal Accessibility”

In St. Maarten, one of the biggest strengths of our tourism industry is the amount of repeat tourists we welcome to our shores.  And while it is important to continually attract more tourists in niche markets such as Religion, Sports, Culture and Heritage and Medical Tourism to name a few, we cannot ignore the aging and/or disabled visitors, We must also recognize that our loyal time share owners that have invested in properties on this island, and who are consistently returning to our Island year after year. These visitors who continue to visit our Island, will continue to age and their needs for more accessibility on our island will continue to grow.

In addition, to our stay-over tourist, we must also keep in mind the importance of accessibility for the millions arriving by sea. Cruise lines are among some of the most accessible tourism ventures in the world and their demand for destinations with matching accessibilities will only increase as more destinations are competing within the lucrative Caribbean Cruise market to conform to the accessibility standards.

Reflecting on where we are currently in terms of accessibility and connectivity, I must admit that the primary factor in the phrase “Tourism for All”, is reflected in the visitors’ ability to reach the destination, in terms of connectivity. When connectivity was analyzed based on direct international connections to and from a destination, St Maarten ranked 7th and we were recently named “Caribbean Airport of The Year 2016.

The management teams of the Princess Juliana International Airport operating company and the St Marten Harbour Holding Company have done an excellent job in ensuring that the visitors have a safe arrival and departure from our Airport and Sea Port facilities. We can also see that several local businesses have improved accessibility with reserved parking for the disabled, and wheelchair ramps and elevators as well as accessible friendly restrooms for the disabled. We look forward to seeing more of such private sector initiatives.

Still, there is always room for improvement.  We can definitely identify some areas that we may want to look at when providing better accessibility for all. The way in which we can improve this will differ from business to business, but my message is about us taking the time to identify why we need to make St Maarten more accessible for all and how we can do this ourselves.

I would like to stress that this premise should not only be limited to our visitors but to our local residents as well. I am a firm believer that we must also ensure that the residents on our island are also given the same consideration. Our elderly and/or disabled residents must also be able to enjoy the same degree of access as everyone else. As the saying goes: “Charity begins at Home” and if we want to implement accessibility policies for our tourists, we should simultaneously ensure that access for our residents to non-accessible areas are also improved. After all, one of the major touted benefits of the tourism industry is it potential to improve the land not just for tourists, but also for its inhabitants.

While we continue today to enjoy the growth of our tourism industry which enables us to sustain our way of life, I believe that as a nation we should not forget those who experience physical challenges when trying to discover the beautiful beaches and nature of our island, when seeking to experience the cultural diversity that we are so proud of as well as the many other delights that hundreds of thousands experience on our island each year.

I encourage everyone to continue to strive to truly be the “Friendly Island” in every way including being “accessibility friendly to all our visitors and our people.

Finally, I invite everyone to celebrate this glorious day “World Tourism Day” and to be part of the promotion of tourism and the development of universal accessibility for all.  I wish each and everyone on this beautiful Island a Happy World Tourism Day.

Ingrid Arrindell

Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication

Saba Presents Tourism Action Plan 2016-2018

SABA–The number of visitors to Saba has declined over the past years, which is the reason for the Saba Government and Tourism Commissioner Bruce Zagers to assume a hands-on approach to boost the visitor figures. The result is the Tourism Action Plan 2016-2018, a copy of which was presented to Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs Henk Kamp on Monday.

~ Cooperation with St. Maarten stakeholders ~

St. Maarten plays an important role in the plan. Reliable figures on the number of visitors are presently lacking, which makes it difficult to determine the performance of tourism, but according to the report dated August 27 it is clear that tourism has been declining in past years.

The report gives as examples the fact that two of the three dive shops in Saba are for sale and are barely operational, and the fact that only two full-time dive boats are currently operational whereas in the past there were seven. Also, in the past five years the average number of flights per day has been reduced from five to four and trips by The Edge ferry have decreased from five times a week to three. In addition, one of the hotels has closed and only a few additional hotel rooms have been created in terms of short-term rental cottages.

The Saba Marine Park reported that the number of dives per year has decreased in recent years. “It can be concluded that steps need to be taken to revive tourism in Saba with or without accurate statistical information. The Island Government intends to promote and stimulate economic development. This opinion has also been expressed by the Dutch Government.

An improved tourism sector would provide many opportunities for employment and economic development,” it is stated in the Tourism Action Plan 2016-2018. The 12-page document provides a clear vision of the way forward in the short term. Stakeholders were involved in the process by conducting interviews with the Commissioner of Tourism and incorporating their achievable opinions into one document as a starting point for improvements.

The plan will continue to be a working document and will, as much as possible, include the input of the stakeholders, to make it a well informed and efficient process. Saba is famous for its diving and hiking, but there are also other attractions that could be further developed such as retreats, conferences, sport fishing, zip-lining, rock climbing and bird watching. The Saba Government will actively support these other avenues. Factors like safety, family-friendliness, tranquillity and the great dining possibilities on the island should be part of the “Saban identity.”

St. Maarten

The Tourism Action Plan focuses on three target groups: the yachting industry, day-trippers and overnight guests. The plan aims to achieve improvements in Saba itself, but it also actively involves St. Maarten and St. Barths, the two closest destinations with a successful tourism industry.

Especially St. Maarten is important to Saba. Not only do the vast majority of day-trippers and overnight guests come through St. Maarten, but the larger sister island also has an industry that is particularly interesting to Saba: the yachts. “We need to attract more (mega) yachts to Saba.

Based on meetings with stakeholders in St. Maarten, we came to the conclusion that we need to focus on two factors to achieve that: facilities and marketing.” Fort Bay Harbour plays a crucial role in attracting more yachts to Saba, and as such a number of clear steps have been set in the Tourism Plan. The Harbour management has to be professionalised and commercialised with the help of an external expert and an exchange programme with Port St. Maarten. A log will be established so visiting yachts can reserve docking space, and a website will be created for the Harbour. Security at the Harbour will be improved at night, the existing moorings strengthened and 12 additional moorings installed. External funds will be sought to place a VHF repeater tower on Mount Scenery to ensure that yachts at Wells Bay and Ladder Bay can communicate with the Harbour. Options will be explored to set up a water taxi service. Funds will be sought from the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment to do small maintenance at the new pier and to reorganise the Customs Office so visitors can wait inside instead of outside. Fort Bay will be beautified with the placing of benches.

Overall, the cleanliness and organisation of the Harbour needs a boost. External funds will also be sought to reinforce the roof of the new commercial building to facilitate parking. Marinas Saba needs to be more intensively promoted at the marinas in St. Maarten and St. Barths. Promotional material will be prepared for marinas and boat crews. “Marinas are interested to disperse the flyers and tell us that there are a lot of potential yacht owners interested in visiting Saba, but that there is limited information.”

Possibilities will be explored to set up a billboard in St. Maarten to promote Saba as a yachting destination. A familiarisation trip will be organised for boat crews and marinas, while a promotional video is being planned. Yachters’ guidebooks will be approached to include Saba. And last, but not least, the Saba Regatta will be revived.

Saba wants to give more attention to persons visiting the island for a day. Day-trippers need to be accommodated as much as possible so they have an excellent experience which will have a positive influence on their return to the island. Day-trippers will receive a warm welcome at the Harbour from a welcoming agent or a “friendly” face that will greet the visitors, answer any questions and facilitate excursions. An outlet with information will be placed at the Harbour.

The Saba Government will continue to lobby for faster clearance procedures for day-trippers. Daytrip brochures for Saba are being finalised and will be placed at activity desks in St. Maarten and St. Barths. Familiarisation trips will be organised for persons working at these activity desks and other stakeholders in the tourism industry on the two neighbouring islands.

The actions focused on the yachting industry and on day-trippers will also have a long-term effect on the number of overnight guests. An additional number of actions will be taken specifically to increase this target group, including the lobbying with Winair for flights between Saba and St. Barths in the high season, more flights from St. Maarten and lower air fares. Package trips The Saba Government will encourage stakeholders to set up package trips to Saba from St. Maarten and St. Barths.

Investments will be made in dive packages with St. Maarten and St. Barths. This will include a familiarisation trip. The decompression chamber needs to be operational and promoted more. Furthermore, the Government will actively support and promote new initiatives taken by stakeholders, such as Saba Restaurant Week, Taste of Saba, the Saba Regatta, as well as existing initiatives such as Sea and Learn, Saba Day, Carnival and the Saba Triathlon. “More can be done by Government to promote these initiatives.”

Commissioner Zagers emphasised in the conclusion that the Tourism Action Plan depended on the support of everyone involved to be successful – not only the Saba Government and its departments, but also the Dutch Government, the local service-providing stakeholders and the stakeholders carrying out controls such as Customs and Immigration. “With the support of all parties involved considerable improvements can be made in the short term that will result in an improved tourism industry.”

Source: The Daily Herald