Category Archives: Editorials

AAwful

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.

 

Source: TODAY

Tourism Figures

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.

Source: TODAY

Opinion Piece: Investing In St. Maarten

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:

  1. Risk
  2. Return On Investment (ROI)
  3. Cash Flow
  4. Liquidity

In this article, let me talk 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 AirStMaartenClick 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:

  1. Assess the project
  2. Do due diligence
  3. Help structure the deal(*)
  4. Assist with the closing

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.

Terrance Rey
Managing Director
Anykey Services N.V.
Marketing * Management * Consultancy
Email: sales@anykeyservices.com
Website: http://www.anykeyservices.com

This article is based on information taken from the upcoming book “Living, Working & Doing Business In St. Maarten” by Terrance Rey.

(*) There are a number of tax-exempt business structures and private foundations on St. Maarten you can use as an investment vehicle.