Opinion Piece: Investing In St. Maarten
by Terrance Rey
I would like to ask why you are here, but if you are on this webpage reading this opinion piece, you are interested in investing in St. Maarten.
As with any investment anywhere else in the world, there are a number of elements you have to look at when assessing a potential investment in St. Maarten and these are:
In this article, let me tak about Risk.
If you are aware of an investment opportunity or deal on St. Maarten, I would definitely recommend you first come to St. Maarten to see the project firsthand. You can reserve a flight to St. Maarten on AirStMaarten. Click here to book online.
When you are on St. Maarten, the key is to identify the areas that could cause problems and be of potential risk to your investment. In the majority of investment opportunities the potential for problems are:
A. The credibility of the sponsor of the investment deal. I would recommend hiring a local firm to do a background check on the sponsor and the investment opportunity.
B. Is the investment opportunity an existing project or is the sponsor looking to start from scratch? Starting from scratch means that you can help structure the deal to fit your investment profile. Else the structure of an existing investment project has to fit your profile and your needs. Is it a business, a real estate deal or a property development project? And what kind of investment vehicle or entity is being used to structure the investment?
If you are dealing with an existing project that is already productive and generating revenues, then there is historical data you can look at. Again, I would recommend hiring a local firm to do the necessary due diligence for you.
C. You have to be able to determine if the assumptions regarding the investment projections presented are reasonable and viable. Personally, I like to look at the cash flow projections.
D. Next, depending on the type of investment opportunity you are looking at, you have to access the operational or maintenance side of the project. Is there management in place? If it is an existing project, you will have to review the investment opportunity in terms of feasibility, production, output and operational costs. You will have to identify any opportunities to enhance production or to identify risks associated with the management or operating company. One area I like to look at, is to know if they are properly capitalized.
One recent example was brought to my attention by a client who contacted me with the urgent need to find a new place to rent. He was subleasing the previous place of business and the lessee he was subleasing from was collecting the rent monies from him but not paying the landlord the rent money owed. He was evicted. So you got to know if they have enough cash in the bank to pay their bills. Or in this case, pay the landlord.
E. Finally, if you are investing in a project under development by a developer, you have to assess whether they have the ability to live up to their obligations and deliver on their promises. This can be resolved contractually by identifying the risk potentials and making agreements to opt-out clauses. There are a number of unfinished development projects on St. Maarten and that is not good for the island's investment reputation. But in general the investment climate on St. Maarten is just as great as the weather with sea, sun and sand to enjoy all year round.
How can Anykey Services N.V. help you?
If you are considering an investment opportunity or deal, we do the following for you:
This is a very brief outline, but it gives you a sense of the way we try to help you mitigate the risks when considering investing or doing business in St. Maarten. That being said, investment opportunities, deals or businesses you may get involved in St. Maarten may provide above average returns and that means that the return is higher than, say Government bonds, therefore, inherently the risk is higher.
Rule of thumb, don't invest money you can't afford to loose.
Anykey Services N.V.
Marketing * Management * Consultancy
(*) There are a number of tax-exempt business structures and private foundations on St. Maarten you can use as an investment vehicle.
Country Sint Maarten should be able to seek development funds from other countries and take the lead in promoting SIDS Issues within the Kingdom.
Thursday, September 30th, 2010
With country Sint Maarten 2011 budget still pending, additional provisions will have to be made with respect to investing in our own national development as the Dutch Budget for 2011 reveals that subsidy support from Holland will start to decline in 2011 and cease to exist within three years.
The amount budgeted for Curacao and Sint Maarten in 2011 is 73 million Euros. The cooperation funds in the Dutch Government will be reduced in 2011 by 17 million Euros and by 36.4 million in 2012 and will be zero in 2013. Development funds from USONA and AMFO will not be subsidized by the Dutch Government after 2012; no more money for the programme Education and Youth after 2012 and the Netherlands Antilles Safety Plan PVNA will cease at the end of 2012; financial support for the Social Economic Initiative (SEI) will be terminated at the end of 2010.
Holland will provide 10 million Euros per year for Curacao and Sint Maarten starting from October 10 until 2015, in technical assistance/supervision to build up the government apparatus.
With development assistance going to dwindle in the coming years; as a nation we need to make our own provisions first and foremost from within our own national budget and then look else where for additional assistance. Country Sint Maarten should be able to tap into funds from multilateral institutions and receive assistance from other countries.
As Jamaica's Prime Minister Bruce Golding recently pointed out at the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, developing countries must help themselves towards sustainable development. "We must recognize that there is a lot that we can and must do for ourselves. Each of us must adopt and pursue with fixity of purpose the appropriate economic and social policies and good governance practices," Golding said.
Golding added, "...long term development must not be decided by strength alone, but through cooperation. The existing international financial system and multilateral trading arrangements will not enable these imbalances to be redressed. They have not done so up to now and they are unlikely to do so in the future.
"Market forces and competitiveness are indispensable for economic development but the new millennium cannot be defined by the survival of the fittest. We must make it our business to assist the weak to become fit in order to not just survive but prosper," Golding explained.
Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush told a UN roundtable last week that associate member states, like the British island dependency Cayman Islands, are being excluded from certain development assistance programmes begun as part of the UN's Mauritius Strategy.
The Mauritius Strategy is an agreement that seeks to promote sustainable development in Small Island Development States (SIDS) aimed at tackling poverty and controlling debt levels. The strategy also is aimed at improving governance and consistency of international financial and trading systems to help smaller island states participate in the decision-making process for those industries.
Premier McKeeva Bush added, "...the Mauritius Strategy for the Caribbean cannot be fully implemented if some islands are excluded on political or constitutional grounds." "We are just as vulnerable to hurricanes, earthquakes and sea level rise as our neighbours." Bush added, "We need to move away from relationships based on post-colonial guilt, and trade preferences that has the unintended effect of discouraging diversification and prolonging dependency." "We need a new relationship between partners, based on mutual interests and shared benefits."
This is an effort – the inconsistencies of the international financial and trading systems towards SIDS - which we need to take up at the Dutch Kingdom level. As a SIDS ourselves, along with Aruba, and Curacao, we need to bring forth the challenges faced by SIDS and have the Kingdom of the Netherlands play a role in working towards creating a level playing field for all nations.
Editorial taken from TODAY, published April 9th, 2010
The projection Tourism Commissioner Frans Richardson presented in the Island Council on March 29th seems to be more wishful thinking than anything else.
The Commissioner said that tourism would grow between 3 and 5 percent this year, but the Hospitality and Trade Association has its doubts about that number. Such a projection could be based on hotel bookings, but those bookings are not there. SHTA-projectmanager Robert Dubourcq says. This is because travelers tend to book on very short notice these days.
It is therefore impossible to predict today what hotel occupancy will look like in November or December. Hotels reported a 15.8 percent upswing in bookings for February, but even that figure does not tell the whole story, because the sector has been heavily discounting to encourage tourists to come to the island. While occupancy may be up for this particular month, profitability most likely took a hit.
This is a time for realistic assessments, because they drive the action that is necessary to keep the local economy afloat. The Commissioner's prediction unfortunately does not fall in this category.
Editorial taken from TODAY, published December 1st, 2009
Ouch. The island government is spending precious dollars on a re-branding campaign with lots of double A's in the slogans and now National Geographic has come down on the island like a ton of bricks to destroy these noble marketing efforts.
This is of course no surprise at all. To get ahead in the world with any undertaking, the slogan Be good and tell it is a sound piece of advice. The island government apparently understands the last part of this line (tell it), better than the first part.
Be good and tell it obviously requires that something must be good in the first place, otherwise there is nothing to tell. By focussing almost blindly on telling everybody how wonderful St. Maarten is, without wondering whether this is actually a true statement, St. Maarten is shooting itself in the foot.
In August, Tourism Commissioner Frans Richardson visited New York for a promotion tour. He talked to many journalists. And what did he tell them? "The economic downturn has given us the opportunity to define and refine our offerings, improve infrastructure and finally give attention to measures to protect and preserve the environment."
It sounded brilliant, but unfortunately, this statement was not entirely true. Some might even argue that it was not true at all. Readers of the online newletter Travel Weekly gave Richardson a piece of their mind - a prelude to what was to come later in the year with National Geographic's assessment.
"Once again, St. Maarten's words are much different from reality regarding traffic, the nasty airport officials and agents, the absolutely hideous amount of crime against tourists and natives alike, and as of late a constant interruption of electrical services. St. Maarten, you have a long, long way to go." was just one of the reactions.
Now National Geographic has placed the island in the category of destinations with the worst rating. It is, the prestigious magazine noted, "an example of what islands ought to avoid in tourism."
For those St. Maarteners who have made it their mission to protect the island's natural environment, National Geographic's harsh criticism is the logical consequences of years of wrong decision-making.
Epic project manager Rueben Thompson says in our front-page story today that the criticism should not come as a surprise to anyone. The article, Thompson states echoes many of the concerns about the development on the island that Epic and its sister foundations have been pointing out over the past years.
"Implementing a properly planned moratorium on development would allow government to develop and apply essential environmental guidelines and regulations not present in the island's existing legislation." Thompson says.
While we have known all along that the island is groaning under consistent overdevelopment, this reality has now come home to haunt us. One article in a magazine like National Geographic has more power and more impact than a cleverly designed ad-campaign - no matter how many double A's it contains, or how many dollars the government sinks in that venture. For National Geographic, St. Maarten as now simply become AAwful. Instead of spending time on promoting the island, our tourism commissioner now has to focus on damage control.
Editorial taken from The Daily Herald, published July 6th, 2009
News that the Executive Council has approved the Emergency Marketing Fund totalling more than four million guilders (US $2.3 million) diverted from the Social Economic Initiative (SEI) comes none too soon. After all, the initiative to make extra means available for tourism marketing and promotion as a result of the global financial crisis and its impact on holiday travel is almost six months old.
That it took so long despite the term “emergency” has a lot to do with part of the money (2.2 million guilders) coming from Dutch development funds that needed to be redirected, but in the end it’s a case of “better late than never.” At least the funds are now in place, so that the plans can be executed.
Some have questioned whether investing the money in marketing and promotion makes much sense at all, considering the decline in travel especially in the island’s main market, North America. However, with its one-pillar tourism economy St. Maarten has little choice but to try to attract more visitors and keep the local business community that depends on them going as much as possible.
Besides, experience in the last few months has shown that with attractive airfares, discounts and favourable room rates people will still come and spend money while here anyway, although perhaps somewhat less. The higher loyalty factor when it comes to the dominant timeshare sector as compared to regular hotel guests no doubt also plays a positive role.
At this late date the focus of the emergency marketing obviously will have to be on the upcoming high (winter) season. The St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA) had already stated that to do so the process to obtain the funds would have to be finalised by the end of July, which now appears to be the case.
As far as other measures to alleviate the crisis are concerned, the Economic Stimulus Plan that came out of the Economic Summit is being looked at by the new National Alliance/Heyliger Executive Council. This, despite the fact that the SHTA says the document provides no concrete relief for local businesses and residents.
It is fair to say, however, that coming up with measures that don’t financially burden the already cash-strapped governments or local consumer is far from easy. The SHTA in its most recent bi-monthly publication came up with a few proposals of its own, which on closer scrutiny might not be that practical or easy to execute either. For example, giving tax breaks to businesses that offer discounts of 20 per cent or more to consumers sounds good, but would be difficult, if not impossible, to control. At the same time, tax breaks lie largely in the hands of the Antillean Government in Willemstad rather than the Island Government in Philipsburg, which will, however, receive less income if it involves profit, income or even turnover tax.
Lower commercial electricity and water prices is a controversial matter, as businesses often already have relatively lower rates than the average household and the question is whether “regular” consumers would ultimately end up footing the bill. There reportedly are even some cases already where accommodations that should not have lower rates because of their nature are still receiving them.
Reducing the cost of housing through zoning, lower construction cost and tax incentives for local housing developments appears a noble undertaking, but obviously would take some time when it comes to zoning, while it’s not clear how construction cost can be reduced and any tax incentive again goes at the expense of government’s income.
The need for a better educational and vocational training system that is more geared towards the reality of the local labour market obviously is something with which most will agree, but falls under the category “what else is new?”
All in all, there really appears to be no “ quick-fix ” for the local consequences of the global downturn and attracting more visitors the island remains the only truly viable short-term option “The Friendly Island” has.
Source: The Daily Herald
How About Coupons For Inter-Island Travel To and From St. Maarten?
Published Sunday, June 14th, 2009, 1:36pm
Last month, I published a column which also generated some interest and notable responses.
One such responsee agreed that the suggestion to use Winair to provide free airlift from the surrounding Caribbean islands to bring tourists, business travelers and shoppers to the island as a way to boost the island's economy in the faltering worldwide financial crisis affecting many travellers' vacation plans was a good idea.
However, the writer offered another good idea that has merits and worthy of a follow-up discussion in this forum. The responsee wrote and I quote:
The idea to try and use Winair is a good one. Certainly with an eye on the future new arrangements in The Kingdom, St. Maarten becoming a 'Land' vis-a-vis Aruba, Curacao and The Netherlands, it would/should be feasible to further develop Winair. If you'd have just one flight per week to Europe, one to Washington DC (or another well chosen port) this would be great. More important, if I could buy a decent flight arrangement in Amsterdam (or somewhere in US) that included 'coupons' for inter-island flights from St. Maarten to surrounding places like St. Barth's, Trinidad, The Dominican Republic and the like, it would enable me to use St. Maarten as a hub for a vacation with one or more day 'excursions' in the Caribbean. Now the ticketprices are prohibitive if the flights are at all available.
That's not only a good idea, I think that is a great idea: Coupons for inter-island flights from St. Maarten to surrounding islands like St. Barths .
Obviously this idea needs more research as to its feasibility and practical market implementation to test the pros and cons, but I certainly do like this idea. How about you? Let me know what you think...
Terrance Rey is owner and operator of AirStMaarten, Caribbean's first virtual airline based in St. Maarten; organizing and coordinating commercial flights, shared charters and private charters to and from St. Maarten, St. Barths, Anguilla, Antigua, San Juan, Puerto Rico, Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao and throughout the rest of the Caribbean.