Category Archives: St.Maarten News

A Daytrip To St. Barths Is Worth The Travel

While you are visiting our lovely island of St. Maarten and enjoying the tastes of France that only the St. Tropez of the Caribbean can bring you, you owe it to yourself to take a daytrip to our lovely island neighbor St. Barths. It is only 22 miles away and an air charter can get you into the capital of the island, Gustavia, in the shortest time so you can have the most time to enjoy all the sights, sounds, and differences of a Caribbean island that was originally a Swedish colony.

St. Barths has long been a winter haven for the rich and famous but that does not mean just ordinary folk cannot enjoy the natural beauty, the quiet island life, the pristine beaches, and the distinctly authentic shopping experience in St. Barths. Being already just 30 minutes away from one of the most spectacularly unique and sophisticated of the “French” Islands in the Caribbean means a daytrip to St. Barths is a must do for the Caribbean trip of a life time that you can brag about forever.

St. Barths is easily accessible and affordable if you come to St. Maarten by plane, cruise ship, or on your own yacht.

St. Barths is basically a reef. If diving and exploring for sea life is one of the items on your “bucket list”, St. Barths offers an infinite variety of fish, coral, and sea creatures that are unique to all the Caribbean. The fishing is superb as well. The island has a thriving surfing community and a yearly calendar of boat races that feature the fastest of sail boats and the tall ships of days long past.

The beaches on St. Barths still retain a pristine quality that is hard to find. Miles of beaches topped by rocky volcanic crags and a spectacular ocean view provide the perfect hideaway for a kindling of romance. The natural beauty of some of the most exotic and rarest flowers in the world makes the island a true Eden.

The 80 restaurants on St. Barths provide one of the largest varieties of cuisine in the Caribbean. The best of French food, local Creole delicacies, Asian, Italian and almost every type of cuisine in the world can be found on St. Barths. The wine list on the island is second to none.

Shopping is a change of pace on St. Barths. Hand-woven bags and hats made by local people are a treasure to everyone that visits the island. Naturally, all the best designers from all over Europe have a shop on St. Barths to cater to the rich and famous.

A daytrip to St. Barths from St. Maarten will astonish and delight you. The natural beauty, the red roofed houses, and the wonderful beaches, the variety of food, and the best shopping in the world make a daytrip to St. Barths one of the best things you will remember most from a visit to the Caribbean.

Terrance Rey is CEO of AirStMaarten, Caribbean’s only virtual airline specializing in shared charters to St. Barths.
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Top Things To Do When A Storm Threatens Your Caribbean Vacation Island

I am writing this article on a self-imposed deadline instigated by the approach of Tropical Storm Erika with the aim of advising visitors on my Caribbean home island of St. Maarten what to do before TS Erika reaches our Windward Islands or worst, turns into a Hurricane.

Six years ago, in September of 2009, we also had a Tropical Storm by the name of Erika threatening our shores as well and then too I sent out a quick emailing to my mailinglist with information and advice on what to do if caught in a hurricane while on vacation in the Caribbean.

The article I wrote for that September 2009 newsletter is still valid even up to today.


So here is my checklist of Top Things To Do If A Storms Threatens Your Caribbean Vacation Island.

  • Make a list of supplies to buy.
  • Study the storm’s path on the weather sites. I strongly recommend
  • Plan for wet surprises.
  • Create a list of tasks and responsibilities. Know who does what in an emergency bug-out.
  • Pack non-perishable food for each person for 3-7 days.
  • Buy bottled water (1 gallon per person per day).
  • Pack two coolers: one for drinks, including bottles juices, and one for food.
  • Stock up on canned foods and have a manual can opener handy.
  • If you have pets, make sure to stock up on dry pet food.
  • Have a plan in place if your personal belongings get lost or damaged.
  • Store all important documents in waterproof containers.
  • Have your bags packed and ready to move.
  • Have an emergency (first-aid and disaster) kit ready, with batteries (in different sizes), flashlights (plus extra bulbs), candles, matches, duct tape, clock (wind up or battery-powered), plastic garbage bags, etc.
  • If you are on medication, consult with your physician and have an extra supply of medicines.
  • Read up on hurricane do’s and don’ts. Unless you are an extreme storm chaser, don’t go outside in a storm unless you really, really, really have to.
  • Dress appropriately. Make sure you have rain gear, extra clean clothes, extra blankets, heavy gloves, etc.
  • Know the bug-out route to the nearest designated hurricane shelter.
  • Make sure your room, apartment, condo or villa is secured.
  • Make sure your cellphone, tablet and laptop batteries are fully charged.
  • Keep a list of emergency numbers handy.
  • Make sure you have a battery-powered radio you can listen to.
  • Stay in touch with the home front via internet.
  • If you are staying at a resort, listen to the resort management.
  • My personal favorite: have a supply of comfort/stress foods handy.
  • Last but not least, get extra cash!

This list is sorted in no particular order of priority or preference except the latter two, but those are my personal preferences, candy and cash.

Be safe people!

PS: Visit for the latest up-to-date weather news and storm tracking for the region of St. Maarten/Saint Martin, St. Barths, Anguilla, Saba, St. Eustatius. St. Kitts & Nevis.

St. Maarten Needs A Responsive Tourism Marketing Strategy

Much like when you are using a smartphone or tablet and you turn the screen upside down and the display automatically flips so that it is rightsided up again, the same way St. Maarten’s tourism marketing strategies needs to be responsive. The minute something happens that poses a threat or an opportunity for the island as a tourism destination, the St. Maarten tourism authority needs to be able to flip the strategy so that the policies are rightsided up again and is able to respond decisively to that threat or opportunity.

Last month, after the attacks in Tunisia whereby a gunman killed dozens of tourists, countries such as Spain and the Canary Islands immediately responded with marketing campaigns to offer sun-seeking Europeans an alternative vacation destination for their holidays this year. What did St. Maarten do? Nothing, of course. Granted, long-haul destinations are unlikely to pick up tourists originally destined for Tunisia, according to travel analyst Angelo Rossini from market research firm Euromonitor. “Destinations like the Maldives, the Caribbean and Mexico are typically more pricey and target a different customer segment.” he was quoted as saying by

However, the reason St. Maarten tourism authorities were unable to respond proactively in a case like this is because the island’s tourism marketing is completely non-existent. There is absolutely no strategy or policies in place to react to or counteract any positive or negative development, whether internationally, regionally or even in the source markets for the island tourist traffic.

Now in the aftermath of the shootout in Philipsburg with Officer Gamali Benjamin fatally wounded and the island has literally been flipped on its head with this new level of crime violence, there has been a huge outpouring from St. Maarten sympathizers and long time island visitors on the internet, on forums, blogs and social media. One post alone on a forum has to date almost 7000 unique views. With this exposure in mind that can negatively impact the island’s tourism product, the tourism authorities on St. Maarten needs to be proactive and let the world see that the St. Maarten government, in particularly the Justice Minister, the Police Force, the business community and the island’s population is united in condemning these acts of violence and that swift action is taking to bring the perpetrators to justice. The image of a decisive and effective justice apparatus needs to be communicated and depicted immediately and profiled consistently so tourists and prospective visitors to the island can feel that the authorities have the situation well under control.

That level of responsiveness is unfortunately missing in the island’s tourism marketing and promotion abilities. Therefore, the call is hereby issued to the tourism authorities on St. Maarten, starting with the Ministry of Tourism, to tackle this matter immediately without any further delay as our tourism product is definitely under threat. There is an opportunity right now to do something about that with the present level of support in all sectors of the island. St. Maarten needs a responsive tourism marketing strategy, now more than ever.

Americans Will Take A Wait And See Approach

Terrance Rey - Photo by Hilbert Haar/TODAY Newspaper

Terrance Rey – Photo by Hilbert Haar/TODAY Newspaper



GREAT BAY – How big a threat is Cuba really to St. Maarten’s economy and when will the effects hit us? Terrance Rey, managing director of several travel businesses like Let’s Travel and Travel Anywhere, Inc. says it will take at least ten years, but that the country should not wait that long before taking action. Marketing is of course the key word and exactly in that field, the island comes up short.

“You have to look first at our strong points,” Rey says in his Let’s Travel office. “What do people find attractive about St. Maarten? We have all the facilities that tourists have at home and they are comparable with what they have back home. I had a client who wanted to go to St. Barth just to see what the attraction of that island is. After a couple of days, he fled back to St. Maarten because he found St. Barth boring, even though it is a perfect island for a particular category of travelers. You go there for quietude, to see and to be seen.”

How does St. Maarten hold up against such a neighbor? Rey: “We are a small island; people are at the airport within an hour. We have beaches, bars and restaurants and we’re not far away from the US. Tourists are back home within a couple of hours.”

“People do not come to St. Maarten for the environment,” Rey adds. “If that were so attractive then islands like Dominica and St. Lucia would be top destinations, but they are not. People come to St. Maarten and they do not mind what some people call our concrete jungle.”

The dangers that are real threats to St. Maarten’s tourism industry are not external, but internal, Rey says. “The situation with the timeshare industry is a big problem. And there is the pollution caused by the landfill. You only need one tourist who claims that he caught something from it and decides to sue. That will have an effect, but you could asphalt the whole island and that would not be a problem. As long as the beaches are accessible, tourists will be happy. If that access is endangered, then we have a real problem.”

Another strong attraction point of the island is the casino industry, Rey says. “People come from other islands to gamble here. That is a real business opportunity.”

No matter what complaints people may have about telecom services and the utilities company, infrastructural St. Maarten is up to par for the tourism industry, Rey notes. “Tourist land here, they get their cell phone, their rental car and they have their entertainment in bars, restaurants, casinos and discos.”

To keep tourists coming, airlift is key, Rey says. “It is a chicken and egg issue. As long as airlines keep flying, tourists will keep coming and as long as tourists keep coming, airlines will keep flying. We must not break that circle. We have to promote the island.”

That St. Maarten hardly ever shows up as a favorite destination in reader surveys from travel magazines and websites is “subjective” Rey says and he refers to what happened after the financial crisis in 2008. “Nothing happened. Our tourism industry grew. In spite of the crash, people kept arriving.”

Rey says that the island ought to cherish its timeshare owners, though the reality is that the government does nothing of the kind. “Our system has not been established to protect the small man. That’s why timeshare owners always draw the short straw, even though they are people with money.”

As an aside, Rey says that he does not understand why people but timeshare anyway. “What are you really buying? Hot air, that’s all, the right to be somewhere for a couple of weeks per year.”

What about that external threat called Cuba? Rey thinks that it will take time for Americans to truly embrace the destination. “On the political level Cuba needs to go through quite some development. It is still possible to get arrested there at random. Before Cuba is a free constitutional state we are ten years further down the road. The majority of Americans will take a wait and see approach.”

The travelers who visit Cuba are curious about the country, Rey adds. “They have been going there from Europe and Canada, but they end up in gated holiday resorts. They do not see a lot outside of the resort, so they are getting a very one-dimensional impression of the country. But the curiosity about the authentic Cuba is there.”

Jet Blue is going to open a service to Havana and charters have been servicing the destination from Florida. “But the occupation grade with American tourists was disappointing,” Rey says. “Most of the passengers were Cuban-Americans.”

However, with Jet blue in the mix, a certain market for Cuba-oriented travel will open. In spite of that, most Americans will be reluctant to go there, Rey says. “The image of Fidel Castro, the revolutionary, is still imprinted in people’s minds. So the first group to go there will consist of people who have strong ties with Cuba – the Cuban-americans who have family there, followed by adventurers and starry-eyed idealists.”

There is however yet another group that is eyeballing Cuba: entrepreneurs. “I have already organized three charters to Cuba for real estate developers and timeshare entrepreneurs,” says Rey, but he thinks that doing business in Fidel’s backyard will be cumbersome at best for years to come.

“The Cuban government wants to keep a big finger in the pie. They want 50-50 business deals and they want to remain in control.”

Like anywhere else, the success of doing business in a foreign country depends on whom you know and on the networks you have, says Rey. “Cuban-Americans will have an advantage, because they have those contacts. The political process will take time. Only when the resorts, the casinos, the timeshare projects and the cruise industry have developed their Cuba-projects will St. Maarten be in danger.”

There is an upside to this story, Rey says. “We have time to react to this situation. We have to create awareness, and we have to do our marketing and promotion. But in the field of marketing the government is not doing anything right now.”

Interview by Mr. Hilbert Haar, managing editor of the TODAY newspaper on St. Maarten, published on the front page of the TODAY newspaper on Tuesday, July 28th, 2015.

Airlift to St Maarten Discussed with Airlines

Minister TEATT Connor Meets with American Airlines, Delta and JetBlue regarding Airlift to the Country

Claret Connor - IMG_1802

American Airlines representative Gary Alfson, Minister Hon. Claret Connor and Marla Chemont from the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau.

PHILIPSBURG – Honorable Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications (Ministry TEATT) Claret Connor while attending the Seatrade Cruise Conference in Miami, Honorable Minister Claret Connor also took the opportunity while in the United States to meet with key airlift partners, namely American Airlines, Jet Blue and Delta Airlines.

Minister Connor stated that it was very important to understand the areas of business development, and how all stakeholders could further maximize on opportunities. The Minister pointed out that the country is very busy during the high season (November to May) and the objective now is to stimulate more business during the off season (June to October).

“The airlines are willing to adjust schedules to accommodate business. They can change an aircraft on short notice as well. These are a plus for the destination. You may have groups that would like to hold an event and also those who organize conferences during the off season, and if the airlines are willing to accommodate the additional travelers, this is where we all have to come together including the hotel sector and promote event/conference business that would benefit all in the long-run,” Minister Hon. Claret Connor pointed out.

Minister Connor first met with Gary Alfson the Director of Marketing Development for Mexico/Caribbean and Latin America Division of American Airlines. The meeting was mainly an introductory one aimed at fostering closer ties with those stakeholders responsible for transporting a large number of the visitors that frequent the destination.

Accordingly, the discussion was very informative and insightful. Alfson explained some of the challenges American Airlines are facing pertaining to the cost structure and congestion for the island. While the JFK (John F. Kennedy) service is seasonal due to various challenges, the Miami flight is holding its own thus far. It is the intention to have more follow-up meetings with American Airlines representatives in Dallas, the Headquarters to ensure continued service to Sint Maarten, as well to discuss potential marketing strategies to further stimulate travel to the destination. American Airlines has a long standing relationship with Sint Maarten providing service to this destination for some 30 plus years.

Claret Connor - IMG_1899

Jet Blue representatives, Minister Hon. Claret Connor (3rd from right) and Marla Chemont (2nd from right) from the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau.

Minister Connor also traveled to New York to attend the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) meeting at the United Nations Building, and used this opportunity to meet with Jet Blue officials on March 19. In this meeting he discussed ways of strengthening the current partnership. To this end, the Minister will be looking at ways and means of developing strategic marketing actions that would be mutually beneficial, going forward.

Puerto Rico has the urgent attention of both parties as it is not performing as anticipated. The Jet Blue representatives and Minister Connor discussed this service extensively and plan to develop a strategic plan of action to stimulate growth and awareness from this market to Sint Maarten.

“Jet Blue continues to expand its services to the Caribbean and we need to ensure that we are a part of this expansion process from the onset,” said Minister Hon. Claret Conner. He further added, that Sint Maarten is also on Jet Blue’s radar for added service from the Southern Region of the United States.

Currently, Jet Blue offers direct service from New York, Boston and Puerto Rico to Sint Maarten. The possibility exists for added service from the North Eastern region to Sint Maarten. These talks will continue in the near future.

Minister Connor and his team also traveled to Atlanta, Georgia to pay a courtesy visit to Delta Airlines, Delta Vacations & MLT Vacation on March 24. The airline currently provides direct service from Atlanta to Sint Maarten four times weekly, as well as direct service from New York four times weekly. During the winter season, the Delta service is weekly, but reduced during the summer months due to the load factors.

Atlanta visitor arrivals are reasonably strong, as well as those out of Minneapolis, based on the information shared in the meeting with the Delta officials. However, the island will still have to be more visible in these areas to further stimulate the awareness of the destination.

“It is imperative that we stay in touch with these partners on a regular basis to ensure that we are always aware of changes in their operations that could affect this destination in one way or another”, said Minister Hon. Claret Conner concluded.

Claret Connor - IMG-20150325-WA0001

Delta Airlines representatives, Minister Hon. Claret Connor (4th from right), Leo Friday from the Minister’s Cabinet (1st from left) and Marla Chemont (2nd from left) from the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau.


Why Should Any Airline Fly To St. Maarten?

There has been a lot of debate recently about airlines and the airline industry. Especially the cost of airline tickets for travelers. For us here locally, St. Maarten as a destination has been the center of discussion on what should be done to attract more airlines to our island. But we have to understand a vitally important factor in the airline business. The only real reason any airline would fly to St. Maarten is to make money. Airlines are not in the business of promoting any tourist destination. Airlines exist to make money for their shareholders in the form of profits, plain and simple.

Many airlines have increased or are in the process of increasing flight capacity at the expense of leg room and continue to increase fares despite lower fuel costs because they are in the process of recouping the losses they sustained from the reduction in air travel brought about by the ‘Great Travel Recession‘ of the past decade.

The management of most airlines have become forward-looking and see that the present recovery of economies in the United States and Europe is the perfect opportunity to make as much extra cash as possible. The money people save at the gas station as a result of declining oil prices can be used for air travel.

One of the problems with development of more air travel to St. Maarten is the seasonal flights that only occur during the winter months from North America and Europe. St. Maarten needs to promote itself as a year-round tourist destination that will encourage the seasonal flight operators to make a change to all year-round operations.

Getting the airlines to cooperate with this objective will take incentives. The negotiations may be a bit tricky in maintaining compliance with US and European restrictions on government subsidies of airline companies and St. Maarten’s government’s budgettary restrictions are certainly no help either. But the government of St. Maarten could and should make new deals with major carriers from the US and Europe, especially Scandanavian-based airline companies, such as Finnair, looking to expand their operations internationally.

This means paying the airlines to come to St. Maarten. This could be a financial stretch for a government that is seeing deceasing tax income and less revenues for businesses with the state of the present economy. But this strategy has worked well for Curacao and many more thousands of airports around the world. So why not St. Maarten?

St. Maarten needs to look at new markets that have established airlines such as the Arab Gulf states. China and South Korea have developed a growing airline industry. Certainly, not every person in China can come to St. Maarten, but a growing number of wealthy Chinese would see St. Maarten for its attractiveness that even the vastness of China cannot offer in terms of climate and its natural environment.

Finally, advertising will make people want to come to St. Maarten and the airlines will cater to their client’s desires with more flights to St. Maarten. Again, this could be a bit of a financial burden on businesses that are not making the revenues they once enjoyed but every other Caribbean tourist destination will be doing the same thing. The competition for tourist dollars in the Caribbean and elsewhere will certainly increase tenfold the coming years and St. Maarten needs to be at the forefront of innovative marketing developments to attract new visitors to the island.

The good news is that the ‘great travel recession‘ is essentially over in the USA, Canada and Europe. Higher employment rates and more disposable income in the USA alone will mean more tourists for St. Maarten and our island has all the accommodations, natural beauty, activities and night life that make the island attractive to tourists. The basic idea is that the island will have to spend lots more money to increase inbound air travel and get back to the levels of tourism revenues that the island previously enjoyed in the booming era up to ten years ago.

Finally, it is important that tourism authorities on St. Maarten select the right media to promote the island and attract new visitors and make it worthwhile for airlines to fly to St. Maarten. Here is an example of a good media platform to use: Because it is really necessary that we put St. Maarten back on the map as the preferred destination for the major airline carriers.

Let's Travel Launches New Website


Philipsburg – Local travel agency, Let’s Travel, has launched a brand new website online at, which will not only cater to locals looking to request or book flights online, but also target the inbound travel market, allowing tourists to book flights, tours and activities via the website as well.

Let's Travel new websiteOwner of Let’s Travel, Terrance Rey, said that the website took a long time for him to complete but he felt that after the passing of hurricane Gonzalo last week, it was imperative to boost St. Maarten’s travel offerings online so that the island as a tourist destination can get more visibility as the Caribbean islands will certainly be ramping up the competition to promote and sell their respective destinations.

“A comprehensive website like that of offering many travel products and tour services for inbound travellers to St. Maarten is a welcome addition to the marketing arsenal of the island’s tourism sales infrastructure.” says Terrance Rey.

The website will also serve as a webportal to AirStMaarten’s commercial charter flights with specials to Guyana, Jamaica, Miami, Aruba, Colombia and later on Brazil as that South American market opens up once St. Maarten and Brazil conclude an open skies treaty.

“For the past eight years AirStMaarten has been organizing both private and shared charters to the surrounding islands of St. Barths, Anguilla, St. Kitts, Nevis, Tortola and Antigua & Barbuda for passengers transitting through St. Maarten, but the time is right with the launch of to promote inbound travel to St. Maarten itself with services that will attract clients of AirStMaarten to actually visit and stay on the island itself.” explains Rey.

“Our group of travel companies, partners and affiliates will use  the platform of the new Let’s Travel website as a portal to all the different travel products and services that are on offer. We look forward to helping put St. Maarten back on the map as the prime vacation destination in the Northeastern Caribbean region.” concludes Terrance Rey.

For more information, call +1-721-542-2381, email or visit

St. Maarten Tourism Authority Foundation Now a Reality for Destination Marketing

PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten – Minister of Tourism and Economic Affairs, Transportation and Telecommunications (Ministry TEATT) Hon. Ted Richardson announces that the long overdue Sint Maarten Tourism Authority (STA) is now a reality after the STA Foundation was incorporated on Tuesday, August 19 by Sint Maarten Harbour Holding Company and the Princess Juliana International Airport Exploitation Company, in the presence of the minister at Notary Office Boekhoudt.

“This is a momentous occasion, a historic development for the country with respect to marketing the destination. It has been a project that has been worked on by many before me over the past decade or more.

“Both ports of entry are the gateways to our country and continue to play a very important role and contribute to the development of the country. The multi-million dollar investments made in both ports signify their role in our economy because without them, we would not have a tourism industry.

“The STA Foundation is to jump start a process that has taken many years to achieve. All those in the various councils within the STA Foundation structure are there to represent destination Sint Maarten, not their own interests, but that of the destination.

“Now destination Sint Maarten and all those working in the tourism sector and indirectly can feel this great accomplishment which was very long overdue, and now has become a reality. Clear marketing guidelines and the necessary funds behind it will result in a new marketing push for the destination.

“All primary business sectors and actors have called for the establishment of the STA, and have stated how important it is for the country, and today it is a reality,” Minister Hon. Ted Richardson stated on Wednesday after all stakeholders had been informed about the establishment of the foundation.

Minister Richardson along with his Cabinet has been working on finding a solution to the establishment of the STA Foundation since September 2013.

The Council of Ministers approved the establishment of the STA Foundation and the Minister had the authority to establish the STA under his ministry prerogatives.

The purpose of the STA Foundation is: to temporarily assist in carrying out the tourism policy of the government of Sint Maarten as a tourist destination and to support the growth of Sint Maarten’s land and sea based tourism by providing the public and the private sector with focused, sustainable and productive marketing, and the enhancement of visitor experience.

STA will also assist and guide in, and direct all matters related to tourism, whether upon initiative from the public sector or the private sector.

The STA Foundation will execute the aforementioned tasks until the government has incorporated the STA in the form of a so-called Independent Governing Body (Zelfstandig Bestuursorgaan ZBO), which will immediately upon its incorporation be solely responsible for and solely authorized to execute the aforementioned tasks.

STA Foundation will have a Supervisory Council consisting of five members whose appointment will be made by: Harbour Group of Companies; Princess Juliana International Airport; St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association; St. Maarten Timeshare Association; and one member who shall be appointed by the Minister.

The Supervisory Council is entrusted with the supervision over the policy and management of the Board of the foundation, and the general course of affairs of the foundation.

There will also be an Advisory Committee, which shall have as its sole task to assist the Supervisory Council, at its request with advice on all matters related to the execution of its tasks.

The Advisory Council shall consist of six members who will be as follows:
St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce & Industry; Sint Maarten Small Properties Association; St. Maarten Marine Trade Association; an entity representing retailers on Sint Maarten, and during the period such entity does not exist, by the Indian Merchants Association; Dutch St. Maarten Tourist Bureau; and the Tourist Office of Saint Martin (French side).

Both Supervisory and Advisory Councils have been informed of the incorporation of the STA Foundation.

St. Maarten Tourism Authority Foundation signing into existence on August 19th, 2014

L to R, standing, Chef de Cabinet Ludwig Ouenniche, Minister Hon. Ted Richardson looking on after the signing of the STA Foundation incorporation documents which was done by Port St. Maarten Chief Executive Officer Mark Mingo and SXM Airport Managing Director Regina Labega.

Disappointing registration for St. Maarten voting in EU elections

Disappointing registration for St. Maarten voting in EU elections
Illustration by Peter Schrank

Illustration by Peter Schrank first published in The Economist

Of the more than 19,000 Dutch nationals living in St. Maarten only 178 have the opportunity to play their part in guiding the future of the European Union (EU) by voting in the 2014 European Parliamentary elections. Dutch nationals, living in St. Maarten, had to register before April 10, 2014, to be able to cast a vote.

Policy Advisor attached to the Office of the Dutch Representation in St. Maarten, Bianca van der Lee, said although disappointed by the level of interest in this elections, the process is running smoothly for the persons who are registered. She said there is a constant flow of people dropping in to cast their votes. Registered persons have until May 22, 3:00pm to vote at the office of the Dutch Representation on Front Street # 26.

St. Maarten’s President of Parliament Gracita Arrindell was among the first to cast her vote on Tuesday, “I call on all citizens, who registered up until April 10, to exercise their democratic right to vote between now and May 22. I made use of this right this afternoon and voted for the candidate of my choice. Not too long ago, not everyone could vote, including women. To date there are millions of people around the world who still cannot or are not allowed to freely vote for the party or candidate of their choice.”

Initiatives such as an information session at the University of St. Martin and an appeal by several political leaders were carried out in St. Maarten to improve the level of interest in the 2014 EU elections. But efforts proved futile. There was a very poor turnout at the information session and ultimately only 178 persons registered to vote.

Van der Lee said it is not the responsibility of her office to drum up support for the elections, however because there is an agreement to use their office facilities, there was an extra effort to get a strong support from Dutch nationals living in St. Maarten.

Brussels and the candidates are responsible for motivating voters, however EU candidates provided no broad-base public information about their platform to the St. Maarten public. The Netherlands has 26 seats in the EU parliament. As of 2009, Dutch nationals living in the former Netherlands Antilles and Aruba are able to vote in these elections. The fact that St. Maarten seems so far from the EU, has influenced a negative turn-out in this elections as some potential voters feel there is not much influence for policy that affect the daily lives of the people of St. Maarten.

The European elections give voters the chance to influence the future political course of the EU when they elect the 751 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to represent their interests for the next five years.

There have been 766 Members of the European Parliament since Croatia joined the EU in July 2013 but this number is being scaled down at the 2014 elections to 751 and will stay at that level in future. These MEPs will represent over 500 million citizens in 28 member states. The seats are allocated among the various states, by the EU treaties, on the basis of ‘digressive proportionality’, meaning countries with larger populations have more seats than smaller ones but the latter have more seats than strict proportionality would imply.

The new political majority that emerges from this elections will shape European legislation over the next five years especially in areas from the single market to civil liberties. The Parliament – the only directly elected EU institution – is now a linchpin of the European decision-making system and has an equal say with national governments on nearly all EU laws.

Of interest to St. Maarten is the European Union’s long-term spending budget which has to be approved by national governments and MEPs, then each year the two sides decide together how the annual budget will be spent. Policies such as agriculture, regional development, energy, transport, the environment, development aid and scientific research all receive EU funding. Parliament is also responsible for checking later if the taxpayer’s money has been used as intended and for signing off on the accounts if it is satisfied.

Is Peace In Paradise At Risk In The Caribbean?

The Caribbean is in every sense of the word the neighbor of the United States. All islands in the Caribbean and specifically those heavily dependent on tourism (like St. Maarten) know the saying: “If the US sneezes, the Caribbean gets a cold.” This is often used in relation to the economy. In today’s reality, the governments and peoples of the Caribbean have to be aware and prepared to deal with possible threats to US citizens in this part of the world.

Though the Caribbean is and, hopefully, continue to be peaceful, level-headed and not prone to any form of fundamentalist ideas, it is necessary to have contingency plans to identify, combat and quell any threat. A threat to US citizens in any part of the Caribbean is a threat to all the people of the Caribbean.

Any threat or suggestion of a threat means the life blood of our chain of islands in this azure sea is at risk. It means the livelihood of us as a people is threatened. It means our ability to take care of our children, ability to buy medicine, to look after our elderly, simply to grow from peaceful, developing countries to peaceful developed countries are challenged by forces, who do not belong or realize that the Caribbean is not a place to fight battles or to alienate.

The Caribbean has longer been a place that brought people together geographically and after many struggles have keep us together in one spirit with different backgrounds, cultures and beliefs. Our unique differences bind us. Our determination to build countries surpasses any divider.

It is unnerving to read the warning issued “out of an abundance of caution” on Sunday, February 9, 2014, by the US Embassy in Guyana that called on all US citizens booked to travel on Caribbean Airlines CAL flight to make alternative travel arrangements. No details – quite possibly for security purposes – were given about the “unconfirmed threats” which led the embassy to issue such a specific travel warning.

Despite for which country the threat is issued for, the one motivating fact in this un-Caribbean situation is Caribbean Airlines is as vital to these islands in the sun as milk is to a new-born. It does not matter to which country this regional airline belongs. What matters is those white iron birds so poignantly embolden with a hummingbird is a Caribbean symbol, through and through.

Any warning, therefore, is a resounding warning to the Caribbean as a region. It is a warning for every country and its people to become aware that we must be ready for the new realities of the world we live in. Being ready does not mean paranoid; it means we as a region need to become even more vigilant to protect our life source – tourism.

The Caribbean must remain a place where our neighbors to the north can visit us freely and not have to watch over their shoulders. But for that secure feeling to remain, all countries need to be prepared to deal with the fallout of travel warnings whether it is related to a mosquito disease threat or threats of a man-made and sinister kind.

Tourism officials, locally and regionally, must come up with contingency plans to deal with any travel warning. They must be ready to counter any misgivings, ready to accommodate displaced passengers – ready and always prepared to take care of their countries and by extension the wider Caribbean. The waters of the Caribbean Sea separates one island from the other. The innovations in air travel keep us forever linked together through airlines such as Caribbean Airlines, LIAT, Inselair, Winair and AirStMaarten.

No one in the Caribbean, not now in the reality of today’s world, can turn away and say: “No, it can’t happen to us.” Yes, when the US sneezes, the Caribbean catches a cold. Same holds true that when a symbol, a vital link for our islands, is cast in a shadow, the Caribbean can’t see its famous sun. Peace in paradise would definitely be at risked if that was to be the case in the Caribbean.