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.
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.
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.”
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.
“Since taking office I wanted to see this important body of Government move in the right direction. It has been years that Government wanted to establish the STA but they could not complete the process. This is a historic day for St. Maarten as we see the new director take office and move the organisation forward with his fresh ideas,” said Minister Arrindell during the signing.Brison was selected out of 12 applicants, according to Arrindell. She continued to praise the young entrepreneur, who impressed the selection committee with his passion and determination to market the island to the best of his abilities.Matser said Brison came from a strong family would continue to be a proponent of giving young people the opportunity to work to move the island forward. “This is putting our money where our mouth is. We don’t talk about establishing a fully active STA, we make sure it happens,” Matser added.
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.
MAJOR HOTEL DEVELOPMENT IN THE WORKS FOR DOWN TOWN PHILIPSBURG ST. MAARTEN
PHILIPSBURG–Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT) Ingrid Arrindell is working on a major hotel development for the Down Street area.
The plans are in the early stages, but The Daily Herald understands that Sunwing Development and the Ministry are planning a thirteen-floor boutique hotel opposite Sea Palace in the open lot close to Walter Plantz Square.The building will be the home of the St. Maarten Tourism Authority (STA) with several amenities included such as a parking garage for visitors who visit Walter Plantz Square and the beach. The overall development is part of the upgrading plans for TEATT and coalition partner Member of Parliament (MP) Silvio Matser who supports the Minister. While no official announcement has been made by the Ministry, Matser appeared on “Oral Gibbs Live” television programme on Monday, where he announced some of the plans.
The Sunwing group has been looking at several locations on the island to invest and construct an all-inclusive hotel. The Ministry has pitched the boutique hotel to complement the recently established STA, and is seeking to hire an interim director to complete the tourism body. Interviews for the post have been completed and the person is said to be a young, energetic St. Maarten national.
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.
This project will take two years to complete. Further plans indicate a home-porting location for the Harbour Group and the extension of the entire Down Street promenade.
Travel Entrepreneur Terrance Rey Calls For Lifting Visa Requirement For Guyana Citizens
You have obviously heard the news already that Guyana has found huge oil deposits off of its coast in a second oil well, confirming mega amounts of oil and gas located offshore.
For years, I have been a proponent of getting airlift off the ground in the form of direct flights between St. Maarten and Guyana, a land with an abundance of natural resources that our island lacks.
A direct flight between St. Maarten and Guyana would just be a mere two-hour flight. Opposed to the countless hours travellers have to endure and the many stops they have to make presently before they reach Guyana. And vice versa.
Currently, Caribbean Airlines (via Barbados and Trinidad), LIAT (via Antigua and Barbados) and Inselair (via Curacao and Aruba) offer flights between St. Maarten and Guyana.
For years, Guyana has said that there is no bilateral agreement for direct flights between Guyana and St. Maarten. An open skies treaty between Guyana and Country St. Maarten would have to be negotiated accordingly by the competent authorities.
Another restriction in place is the visa requirement for Guyanese citizens to fly to St. Maarten.
Guyana citizens can request a US visa and use that to stay maximum 30 days on St. Maarten for business or leisure travel. This visa costs $200 US Dollars and applicants have to make a request for an appointment at the US Embassy in Georgetown, Guyana. Also special photos are needed for this visa application. The visa is valid for 10 years.
As a local travel agent and airline charter provider, I would like to call on the relevant competent authorities to waive the visa restrictions for Guyanese citizens to travel to St. Maarten.
The Kingdom of The Netherlands has recently lifted the visa requirement for Colombians to travel to Curacao and to St. Maarten. Venezuelans can also freely travel to the Dutch Caribbean islands as well.
So I personally believe the same freedom should be afforded to Guyanese travellers wishing to vacation on St. Maarten or visit the island on business.
With the expected boom in business in Guyana due to the recent oil and gas finds, St. Maarten would do well to lobby for a lifting of the visa restriction and to negotiate bi-lateral agreements with Guyana.
Holland is already a number of steps ahead of us in the area of business development with Guyana and recently concluded a successful trade mission to Georgetown, Guyana, whereby agreements were made for the Dutch Government and Dutch engineering firms to assist the Guyanese Government with water works and city water management projects in Guyana.
Guyana has lots to offer St. Maarten in terms of cooperation in the areas of agriculture, food exports, eco-tourism and financial investments.
Already, we are seeing a surge of influx of investment capital from Guyanese investors investing in businesses in St. Maarten and buying properties on the island. The St. Maarten Government should further stimulate this trend by opening up discussions with the Guyanese Government to further cooperation and joint projects between both countries. St. Maarten as a nett importing country relying exclusive on the imports of all kinds of goods and foods and even basic necessities, such as rice, produce, fruits, vegetables and fish, can have Guyana as a trading partner that can offer St. Maarten security in these areas through mutual cooperation agreements.
The Guyanese Government is seeking to commission an impact study on the aviation sector now that the nation is set to grow its oil and gas producing capabilities and to get its international airport up to Category 1 status. It would behoove St. Maarten to offer strategic input into this effort as well. The agricultural developments alone in Guyana is more than enough reason for both Government and the business sector in St. Maarten to initiate trade missions to Guyana. The possibilities and resources for airlift between both countries in the form of direct flights are there. It is just a matter of developing the market and trade relationship between both countries. Let’s start by lifting the visa restriction for Guyanese to travel to St. Maarten.
GREAT BAY – “We don’t need more tourists. We need better tourists,” economist Arjen Alberts said yesterday during a webinar hosted by Runy Calmera, the chairman of the Dutch Caribbean Economists Association.
The webinar was followed by viewers in the Netherlands, Haiti, Curacao and Sint Maarten, where the complete economy class of St. Dominic High School followed the event on a large screen.
The webinar was dedicated to Albert’s study that focuses on the question why tourism does not lead to higher labor productivity. Today published an article about this study on January 5. Alberts is a Ph. D. candidate at the University of Amsterdam. The peer-reviewed British journal International Development Planning Review (IDPR) published his extensive article about this topic. Yesterday, Alberts elaborated on the issue in terms that are easy to understand.
The study looked at developments in Aruba and St. Maarten. “These are small island tourism economies and they both are always in the top-five in terms of the intensity of the tourism development,” Alberts said from behind a laptop stationed at the Philipsburg Jubilee Library.
The labor productivity question ought to matter to decision makers, Alberts said. “You see the tourism economy growing, but at the same time you see immigration at a high pace. Therefore, that growth has to be shared. If GDP grows by 5 percent but the population grows at the same pace you are actually at a standstill; we are not getting wealthier per capita. You grow in volume, but you don’t produce more per worker.”
The main conclusion of Alberts study is “worrisome” he said during the webinar. “Labor productivity did not increase since the establishment of the tourism economy in St. Maarten. Some people got wealthier, but on average, people did not.”
The tourism-economy model was successful in one respect, but not successful enough, Alberts added. “There was success in terms of the creation of employment for the wider Caribbean and in terms of marketing. On the other hand: the islands have limited space and they are not using it intensively enough. Instead we have done the opposite in St. Maarten: more hotels, using more space, creating crowdedness, instead of using the available space in a more money-yielding way.”
On the business level it is necessary to look at the supply chain, Alberts said. “Most of the hotel-needs are imported, but you want to offer more entertainment and more activities for tourists. You don’t want more tourists, you want a higher yield per tourist.at the moment, those numbers are actually dropping.”
From every dollar earned, the economist pointed out, 80 percent leaves the island for the import of goods and services. “That percentage must be brought down.”
What the industry ought to focus on is experiences instead of more of the same. “You want to create a memorable experience. Back in the day Mullet Bay offered this; Mullet Bay was St. Maarten, but those days are gone. To create a coherent memorable experience parties – public and private – have to work together. Aruba is slightly better at this than St. Maarten though Aruba is also coasting along.”
Alberts said that there is a lot to be gained in the field of services. “St. Maarten could be a regional hub for services, instead of an importer of those services. Why don’t we offer electrical vehicles for rent to tourists? Why don’t we reduce the import of expensive fuel?”
When Calmera asked for an example of an island that does get a batter yield per tourist, the answer was about a place right next door to St. Maarten: Anguilla. “They have built a few very expensive hotels and they generate a lot of income from it. They employ locals, sprinkles with a few immigrants. The labor productivity has increased there.” Another example is Dominica, an island that thrives on eco-tourism.
“There are no examples of islands who converted from mass-tourism back to exclusive,” Alberts said. “But something can be done: St. Maarten should not go further down the road it is currently on. They will slowly have to expand the experience.”
Right now, St. Maarten is heading in the wrong direction. “The island is not different from other tourism-economies,” Alberts says. “Unfortunately, the focus is mostly on marketing for marketing’s sake and the objective is to get as many tourists to the island as possible. It is a short-term approach. You want to go to strategy, an overall view of where the island wants to go is lacking.”
The way the tourism-economy has developed so far, is based on the laissez-faire attitude of the government, the economist observes. “The businesses have shaped the industry and the government just let it happen. We don’t manage the type of investments we need. We don’t need more investments in more of what we already have, we need investments in the quality of what we have. We have to ask ourselves, where do we want to be in ten years? And then we have to start working towards that goal. The focus has to be on investments that add to the positive experience. That way you add economic value.”
Getting back to the import of services, Alberts said that local entrepreneurs have to start producing what the hotels need. The government has to back up the development towards higher quality tourism with human resources.
“Everything depends on it,” Alberts says. “Improve vocational education, we need skills, an approach of lifelong learning. You cannot do the added value thing if your people are not qualified.”
He presents a vivid example of how St. Maarten ought to change its ways: “We have focused too much on producing five roses and selling them for a dollar each, while we should focus on producing one rose and sell it for five dollars.”
The emphasis on quality is driven by something the island does not have in endless supply: space. There is therefore an end to the possible growth in absolute numbers. “We have been running very fast while we actually have been standing still,” Alberts observes. If there is an investment option that would attract more tourists, I would say: don’t do it. We don’t need more tourists, we need better tourists and we need to make more money from the tourists we already have.”
While there is a need for better tourists, St. Maarten is currently going in the opposite direction, Alberts notes. He refers to price dumping in the cruise industry, something Today reported about on Wednesday.
“They are caught in the straightjacket of short-term thinking. But somebody has to take the long-term view,” Alberts said. “We are at the end of what we are able to achieve and we cannot go further down that road. We have to become unique, because if you are unique, you don’t have to compete that much. If you all offer the same thing, you have to compete on price – that is the only thing that matters today.”
Marigot, Saint Martin/Toronto, Canada — After the large success of the Martha Stewart Wedding Show in Chicago, St Martin/St Maarten is once again in the international spotlight. Sint Maarten Marry Me along with Ricardo Bethel from the French Tourist Office traveled to Toronto for the most renowned Canada’s Bridal Show established since 1984. Hosted at the Metro Convention Center in Toronto, a high volume of Exhibitors and Visitors showcased all the latest trends in the Bridal industry as well as Wedding Destinations!
Attended by thousands of soon to be newlyweds, guests mingled among the Exhibitors, attended fashion shows, caught up on the latest trends and met one on one with representatives of the wedding industry. They were focused on searching for their perfect paradise to tie the knot, amongst various Caribbean Destinations, where more than 50% of the region was represented.
“The three-day event was very successful and we have already had many inquiries for wedding services as well as assistance with hotel bookings! Saint Martin/Sint Maarten is an all time popular destination among brides due to the unique dual nation status, as well as the fact that it is the Culinary Capital of the Caribbean. “Partnering with the French Tourist Office gives us the opportunity to promote all aspects of the island”! Sint Maarten Marry Me representative Milagros De Windt said during the show.
Sint Maarten Marry Me is one of the leading Wedding Planning companies on St Maarten, celebrating 12 years of turning dreams into reality for many brides-to-be, from North America and beyond.
They have recently branched out to include the French side of Saint Martin to offer their clients a “Fantastically French or Delightfully Dutch” experience! Saint Martin, otherwise known as the French Riviera of the Caribbean, is reminiscent of a typical fishing village full of flora and fauna and luxuriously trendy boutique hotels.
“Saint Martin is indeed a unique destination experience and the French Tourist Office is dedicated to promote our island paradise by attending the most prominent Trade Shows the industry has to offer. We are hoping to establish more collaboration with the Dutch side in the future for a better representation for Saint Martin/Sint Maarten as we believe both sides complement each other and have much to offer!” added Ricardo Bethel from the French Tourist Office.
PHOTO CAPTION: A lucky couple receiving a complimentary stay courtesy of Riu Palace, St. Martin by the hand of Milagros de Windt, Marketing Manager at Artemia, Ricardo Bethel, Representative of the French Tourism Office, and Danika Liburd, Wedding Planner at Sint Maarten Marry-Me.