Welcome to the StMaarten-Info.com Blog where you can read the latest St. Maarten tourism news, articles, editorials, columns, opinions, updates, alerts, flashes and real-time social media posts (such as Facebook).
GREAT BAY – The Summit Resort in Cupecoy is the first fatal victim of Hurricane Irma. After 44 years in business, the resort has definitively closed its doors. A bit further down the road on Cupecoy, the Ocean Club – scene of the most gruesome double murder in recent history, when the seriously disturbed Meyshane Johnson killed Thelma and Michael King on September 19, 2012 – is in such a bad shape that management has announced its closure until further notice.
Summit-owner Bruce Jakubovitz writes in a letter to his timeshare owners that there is “an enormous gap” between the estimated rebuilding costs and the limited insurance coverage and the limited revenue from timeshare and hotel operations.
Each timeshare-owner will receive a pro rata part of the insurance payment. “This is likely to be a low number given the sublimit imposed by our insurance carrier for damages caused by hurricanes,” Jakubovitz wrote.
The Summit Resort opened its doors 44 years ago, in 1973. This is how Jakubovitz describes the damages Hurricane Irma inflicted on his resort; “Some of the Summit’s buildings were flattened completely by the force of Hurricane Irma’s winds. All but one of the Summit’s two-story buildings had their second floors either partially or completely blown off. Our single-story buildings lost roofs and suffered other damage. The pool deck was completely blown away with pieces from it landing by our front entry gate. Our General Manager’s living quarters were destroyed as were the living quarters of our Head of Housekeeping. Our restaurant, bar, reception office, laundry facilities and maintenance building were each either destroyed or heavily damaged as well. There is not a single part of the Summit that has been spared from the destructive force of Hurricane Irma.”
When we visited the Summit Resort on Monday afternoon, general manager Evans was on site and she said that there is another component to the total destruction of the place. “After the hurricane we had about fifteen rooms that were in a reasonable shape. But then the looters came. They kicked in doors and took what they wanted. There was no police around.”
The plan is to clean up the debris. When that is done, the site will be fenced off. All employees have lost their job.
The Ocean Club has announced on its Facebook-page that the resort is closed until further notice and that members will be updated via email.
Photo caption: The Ocean Club in Cupecoy is severely damaged. Photo Hilbert Haar.
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.”
The 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.
Philipsburg — Ministry TEATT on Friday announced that the first arrivals at the Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA) on October 10 and at Port St. Maarten on November 11, will be greeted by staff of both strategic ports and personnel of the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau in shirts with a clear message: St. Maarten is open for business. Or, to put it simple, “Yes, We’re Open! Several volunteers will also be present in the shirts.
The shirts depict an airplane for PJIA and a cruise ship for Port St. Maarten. Adorned in St. Maarten colors, the commemorative logo also features St. Maarten’s National bird the Brown Pelican, an outline of St. Maarten in the background, the latitude and longitude coordinates of St. Maarten and the hashtag #sxmstrong, made popular on social media in the aftermath of hurricanes Irma and Maria. The October 10 and November 11 dates also form part of the logo. Finally, St. Maarten’s area code “721” is emboldened in the middle of a symbol of a hurricane.
Head of the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau Rolando Brison said the shirts are expressions of pride over the re-opening of St. Maarten and its world class ports in the wake of devastating storms. “We want to acknowledge the resilience of our businesses and our people by means of this logo, particularly to show that the cruise and aviation sectors are open despite lots of work ahead,” Brison said.
He said both sectors have a lot of work still to do, but the message about St. Maarten on the international stage has to change. “The narrative has to change. STB will be working diligently with our international marketing partners to let the world know that we are on or way back up,” he said.
Brison reminded that although hotel inventory is low, there are still properties that can accommodate guests and more are working hard to be back online soon. “Doesn’t matter how many people are on flights come Tuesday, the point is there are people coming to St. Maarten. We want to welcome them back and say thank you, He added.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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
Court ruling a delight for timeshare owners
ALEGRIA ORDERED TO RESPECT CONTRACTS
GREAT BAY – The Court in First Instance dealt a severe blow to the Alegria Resort in Beacon Hill to the delight of Andrew Robert and Mary Corbett Stevenson and the Timeshare Owners at Caravanserai Association. The court ruled that Alegria has to respect the rights of the timeshare owners at its resort, under threat of a penalty of $10,000 per week if the company does not abide by the ruling. The court declared it enforceable without delay.
When Alegria bought the Caravanserai Resort at auction in August 2014 it did not take long before timeshare owners received a letter from the new owner (on September 30, 2014) announcing that their timeshare rights had become null and void.
In the past, the Stevenson’s bought four timeshare weeks at Caravanserai – an investment of $74,800. When Alegria voided the timeshare contracts with the argument they were not part of the auction, the Stevenson’s and other disgruntled timeshare owners joined forces in the Timeshare Owners at Caravanserai Association to fight for their rights in court.
The court has now ruled that Alegria is bound by the timeshare contracts and ordered the company to give the Toca-members access to their apartments within ten days, “as soon as the members have paid their maintenance fees upon arrival to Alegria.”
Alegria also has to pay damages the Stevensons incurred from being unable to use their timeshare apartments. The exact damages still have to be properly specified.
Alegria also has to pay all court fees; they amount to almost 6,800 guilders ($3,800).
The court ruled that Kildare properties (the previous owner of the resort) was the seller of timeshare contracts and that these contracts came about through a company called Endless Vacation. Both companies were controlled by Haresh Manek. The court qualified the timeshare contract as lease agreements and noted that Kildare had permission from the bank to enter into these contracts. “Alegria is held to respect the rights of the timeshare owners the way Kildare did,” the court ruling states.
ROLANDO BRISON IS APPOINTED TOURISM AUTHORITY DIRECTOR
By Andrew Dick
PHILIPSBURG–Young local businessman Rolando Brison has been appointed Director of the recently-established St. Maarten Tourism Authority (STA). He signed a one-year contract with Minister of Tourism and Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications (TEATT) Ingrid Arrindell in the presence of Member of Parliament (MP) Silvio Matser.
The purpose of the STA is to assist temporarily in carrying out the tourism policy of the Government of St. Maarten as a tourist destination; to support the growth of St. Maarten’s land- and sea-based tourism by providing the public and private sectors with focused, sustainable and productive marketing; and the enhancement of the visitor experience.
The members of STA’s Supervisory Council are Chairman Keith Graham representing the St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA), Jim Rosen representing the St. Maarten Timeshare Association (SMTA), Suzy Kartokromo representing Princess Juliana International Airport SXM and Roger Lawrence representing Port St. Maarten.
Brison will be in charge of setting up the STA office and beginning to market the island. Funds destined for the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau will not be managed by STA. The next step will be for Government and STA to sign a service-level agreement, according to Arrindell.
“We have to really look at what the current situation is before we start talking about challenges the STA might face. We need to do some good market analysis of where we need to market the island and find the real cost-effective measure to attack with,” said Brison. “Product development is another factor we need to work on. Our hotels and tourist attractions need to be looked at to make our product more appealing to those coming to the island.”
Arrindell reiterated that it was a great achievement for her and the island to have Brison on board and wished him all the best with his new position.
Matser assured the public that Brison’s appointment had nothing to do with politics, that it had to do with making the best choice for the country.
The STA also will assist, guide and direct all matters related to tourism, whether on initiative from the public sector or the private sector. The STA Foundation will execute these tasks until Government has incorporated the STA in the form of a so-called independently governed body (“Zelfstandig Bestuursorgaan” ZBO), which immediately on its incorporation will be solely responsible for and solely authorised to execute these tasks.
Source: The Daily Herald