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STB, marketing firm conduct tourism recovery strategic planning sessions

PHILIPSBURG - Head of the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau (STB) Rolando Brison is currently taking part in several strategic meetings with St. Maarten’s North American marketing firm and other stakeholders to outline and fine-tune the island’s short, mid, and long-term plans for tourism recovery in the aftermath of hurricane Irma.

The STB and St. Maarten’s North American marketing firm MMGY Global has identified a number of activities that will be initiated in collaboration with stakeholders on St. Maarten and abroad.

To kick-off the strategic sessions on Tuesday in New York, Brison and MMGY representatives hosted a conference call with the St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA) to discuss the short-to-long-term plans, with SHTA offering its opinions and recommendations for immediate and future actions.

Among the issues discussed:

  • - Constant Public Relations should continue to counter the overly negative news that may arise about the destination since the storm.
  • - Continued B2B (Business to Business) approach to ensure that key stakeholders are informed and relay accurate information about the status of the island. Stakeholders should be in a position to assist STB in countering mis-information.
  • - Support of the marine sector representatives who will be at the Fort Lauderdale and Antigua Boat Shows.
  • - Drive awareness of the hotels that are back online.
  • - Continue discussions for the resumption of service of major airlines
  • - Promote the fact that the two main festivals, St. Maarten Carnival and Heineken Regatta will be held in 2018.
  • - Relaunch (in 6 to 9 months) the Trip Advisor, Expedia and other campaigns in order to drive business for the summer
  • - Reshape (in the longer term) the image of St. Maarten to change/adapt the seasonability factor once and for all.

Brison also explained that SHTA and STB are hoping to have just under 50 percent of hotel room inventory during the next 6 to 9 months. He added strategic sessions are also planned with one of North America’s biggest tour operators, Apple Leisure Group, on Wednesday.

Additionally, sessions will be held with USA Today and other major publications with emphasis on not just destination promotion, “but effectively changing any misinformation about the island that might be out there and at least letting people know of the progress of the destination in terms of recovery.”

“We are also meeting with major airlines, including American, Delta and JetBlue, to discuss when these airlines will resume regular service and what it will take for that to happen. Now more than ever it will take all stakeholders, together, to get us back on track as a tourism destination. We know what our potential is, we know our respective sectors. Now we should ensure a cohesive effort to help St. Maarten recover,” Brison said. 

Brison and Minister of Tourism Mellissa Arrindell-Doncher is also scheduled to attend key upcoming tradeshows such as the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) Cruise Conference and others. “Our presence at these shows, and our interactions with industry executives at this stage of our recovery cannot be overstated and is of the utmost importance,” Brison said.

MMGY Global, Inc. is an integrated travel marketing company. It offers industry and brand research to identify the habits and preferences of travelers; develops creative solutions tailored to various marketing channels; deploys integrated plans across various marketing disciplines to target and convert travelers throughout the entire travel experience; and provides outcome measurement tools.

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NIA and Art Saves Lives Collaborate in Post Irma Relief Program

PHILIPSBURG - National Institute of Arts and Art Save Lives foundation have joined forces to offer post hurricane Irma relief program.

ART HEALS was conceived by the need to create activities for children and adults geared to offering relief from stresses and trauma brought on by the passing of hurricane IRMA and its aftermath.

ART HEALS, Hurricane Relief Arts Program is a program open to all and free of cost to the participants. Classes are daily from 3:30pm to 6:30 pm to children and teens of all ages. Classes are also offered on Saturday morning at NIA located at the John Larmonie Center in Philipsburg.

“What I know for sure” says Clara Reyes Co-Director of NIA, “is that the arts are integral to our human experience” she continues by saying, “Arts has always been the vehicle for expressing our inner most thoughts and feelings”. “For many children, the hurricane made a deep impact and this is great way for children to give voice to their fear, insecurity, and helpless they may have felt when confronted by such a powerful storm like IRMA”

Today many families have homes without roofs and in many case just hearing a strong breeze even weeks later, can awaken fear in a child because of the residue of the emotion running around in their bodies.

The arts have been very effective for many years as therapies of healing. NIA teacher are committed to creating a safe, nurturing, and fun environment where children can find release.

The collaboration of the ART HEALS program includes Tess Verheij of SXM arts Café who will be providing art classes, Jacques Heemskerk providing Capoeira, St.Maarten Belly Dancer, along with TEAM NIA teachers proving drama, dance, gymnastics, storytelling and much more to children on a daily basis, including Saturday morning.

Please visit our NIA offices at the John Larmonie Center. The building at this time has no internet or phone services.  It’s best to drop by after 3pm for more information. The program is open to all no cost. ART HEALS Hurricane Relief Arts Program. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information. 

ART HEALS PIC ORANGE inside

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RAINFOREST ADVENTURES ST. MAARTEN ANNOUNCES NOVEMBER 2017 OPENING

ROCKLAND ESTATE – Rainforest Adventures has announced a November 2017 opening for the new St. Maarten Rockland Estate eco-park. The park will launch with two signature attractions, The Flying Dutchman -- the world’s steepest zip line -- and the Soualiga Sky Explorer chairlift, as well as the Emilio Wilson Museum and Emilio’s Restaurant. Additional attractions, including the Sentry Hill Zip Line and the Schooner Ride will open in early 2018.

In partnership with the St. Maarten delegation, representatives of Rockland Estate will be attending the 24th Annual FCCA Cruise Conference & Trade Show in Merida, Mexico, October 23 – October 27, 2017. They will be at booth B2 and welcome an opportunity to answer questions about, or introduce participants to, what is sure to be the eastern Caribbean’s must-do attraction.

According to Port St. Maarten’s management the eco-park will be a major new attraction and they are proud of the progress the team has made to open the park. They stress how important it is to have stakeholders like Rainforest Adventures and others to be present with them at the FCCA Conference to promote the destination and strongly emphasize the message that St. Maarten is back and open.

“We are very proud and thankful to our engineering and construction teams, their hard work and expertise certainly reduced the damage incurred as a consequence of the hurricane,” says Shaydar Edelmann, General Manager of Rockland Estate. “The people of St. Maarten have come together in strength to restore and rebuild, reestablish the tourism product and kick-start the recovery of our Friendly Island.”

Princess Juliana International Airport has opened to commercial flights and Port St. Maarten is ready to welcome its first commercial cruise vessel on November 5th. Restaurant and attraction businesses are reopening daily and are ready to receive guests.   

Opening November 2017 at Rainforest Adventures’ Rockland Estate Eco-Park 

- The Soualiga Sky Explorer, a four-passenger chairlift, transports guests to the Upper Deck. These decks encircle the mountaintop, one of St. Maarten’s highest points at 1,115 feet, where they will be immersed in spectacular 360-degree views of St. Maarten and its neighboring islands.

- The Flying Dutchman, the world’s steepest zipline, where guests will experience the thrill of a lifetime as they launch down Sentry Hill on a flight line at 56 mph dropping 1050 feet in elevation over 2630 feet.

- Each adventure begins in the Emilio Wilson Museum housed in a restored plantation house originally built in the 1700s. Guests will see depictions of what life was like on a plantation and learn about the customs, traditions, lifestyle, and stories that earned Sint Maarten the nickname ‘The Friendly Island’.

- Emilio’s Restaurant, St. Maarten’s newest restaurant and entertainment hot spot.

RFASXM Soualiga Sky Explorer

RFASXM Upper Deck Oct 05 17

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MP and former Minister TEATT Connor discusses grievances with vendors of Philipsburg Marketplace

PHILIPSBURG - On Sunday afternoon United People’s (UP) Member of Parliament (MP) Claret Connor met with a group of vendors of the Philipsburg Tourist Marketplace to hear their plight following the actions of Minister Melissa Arrindell-Doncher. The group of vendors were represented by their spokesperson Ms. Ingrid Trellis, according to a press release from the MP.

MP Connor was asked to intervene as the livelihood of the Tourism Marketplace vendors was being threatened by the actions of government. The vendors felt disrespected by the abrupt decision to demolish the stalls that they occupied without prior notice or consultation.

The vendors informed the MP that immediately following the passing of hurricane Irma, Ms. Ingrid met with the Market Officer and the contractor that built the Market to assess the damages. Less than 10 of the 50 stalls needed repairs. The contractor indicated that the repairs to the damaged stalls would last approximately one week, giving ample time for any further sprucing up of the area and prior to target date of November 11, 2017, which was the target date for the return of the cruise-ship business.

The vendors were surprised to witness the commencement of the demolition of all the stalls on Monday, October 9, 2017. What was even more disturbing was the fact that no one knew of this decision. Attempts to seek clarity on what was going from the Ministry of Economic Affairs was unsuccessful at first. Eventually, when contact was established, the Ministry could not provide any information on the situation. To date none of the vendors were given any official notice to which they have expressed their dissatisfaction and extreme disappointment in this experience.

In a press release of October 13, 2017, Minister Arrindell-Doncher attempted to defend her decision for the demolition of the Tourist Market place by indicating that the Market place was unsafe for passers-by and users. She added that the area has become an eyesore as it is situated in the heart of Philipsburg. It was also indicated in the press release that “inaction would be irresponsible”. The vendors wanted to know if it was too much for the Minister to inform the permit holders about her intentions prior to taking the necessary actions.

MP Connor assured the vendors that their grievances will be addressed to the Minister in writing and clarity will be sought on the responsibility for the maintenance of the marketplace and the stalls. Furthermore, evidence of whether the structures that remained were indeed hazardous for passers-by and the vendors.

The MP will also request that the Minister provides the new plans for the area with technical and architectural drawings for the reconstructed Market place, as well as the accompanying documents with regard to the decision.

MP Connor indicated that improvements to enhance our tourism product is always welcomed as much as it is government’s responsibility to ensure that our product is maintained and protected. Government also has a moral obligation to communicate and consult with its partners, even if they are street vendors.

Moreover, a decision that would affect the livelihood of so many, should not be taken in such a manner. This will only add additional distress to the many families that depend on these micro businesses for living.

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Hyman tells NBAA Convention in Las Vegas: SXM Airport is Open for Business and so is St. Maarten

SINT MAARTEN/LAS VEGAS - The Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM Airport) is open for business and so is St. Maarten. That was the message that a delegation of the airport consisting of Michel Hyman, COO/Acting CEO and members of the Supervisory Board of Directors, Alex Dijkhoffz, Cleveland Beresford, Myra Lynch-York and Jimmy Temmer, as well as Director of the Tourist Bureau Rolando Brison, spread to participants at the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The NBAA Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition is considered the sixth largest trade show in the US and the world’s largest business aviation event. Some 27,000 industry professionals attended this year’s Convention, mostly professionals in the General Aviation sector. The trade show ended on October 12, 2017.

“Our participation at this year’s convention has been met with very positive responses from the industry,” stated Michel Hyman.

“We let everyone and the whole world know that we are open for business with the same excellent services and accommodations. We also announced the forthcoming groundbreaking for the new Fixed Based Operations (FBO) building that will improve our services in the General Aviation field.”

“We met with several operators and companies and we were well received by all,” Hyman said.

He said the delegation held discussions with Signature Flight Support, Execujet, World Fuel Services, Million Air, Universal and Rockwell Collins, among others.

“The discussions were fruitful. They were extremely happy to hear first-hand about the latest developments on St. Maarten and at the airport following the devastation caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria over a month ago. All of them expressed the importance of the St. Maarten route to their network and operations and committed themselves to working with the airport and the island in bringing across information about the developments that are taking place to others in the industry, Hyman said.”

According to Hyman, all the operators and companies the SXM Airport delegation met with in Las Vegas indicated that “they would be reaching out to others who apparently only had half information or false information about what was happening on the island’.

Hyman gave a Power Point presentation at the Convention that focused on “the impact of the hurricanes, our recovery goals and the timeline to achieve these, and the way forward for the airport as well as the groundbreaking for the new FBO building.” This was well received. SXM Airport also had a quarter-page ad running for the duration of the Convention in the “NBAA Convention News”.

“Our presence meant a lot to all the attendees who were impressed by the fact that St. Maarten and the airport are already in the recovery stage. The SXM delegation was very satisfied with the way the industry reacted to our presentation,” Hyman said.

“I am confident that we have a lot to look forward to regarding the executive travel and General Aviation during the coming holiday period,” he said, adding: “PJIAE will remain focused on working with its stakeholders to obtain positive results in this sector.”

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Port St. Maarten Encourages Local Businesses to Participate in FCCA Cruise Conference and Trade Show

PORT ST. MAARTEN – Port St. Maarten Management is encouraging the local business community in this post-Hurricane Irma era to attend the Caribbean’s largest Cruise Conference and Trade Show, the 24th Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA), which is taking place from October 23 to 27.

Country Sint Maarten has to project itself once again that it is a viable cruise destination to visit.  There are now four cruise berths that are ready for the first cruise ship visits. 

Port St. Maarten is already collaborating with other very important stakeholders such as the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau (STB), the St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce & Industry, and Rain Forest Adventures to promote the destination at FCCA. Minister of Tourism and Economic Affairs Mellissa Arrindell-Doncher will be leading the #SXMSTRONG delegation to the Cruise Conference and Trade Show.

The destination must have a very strong presence to showcase that all hands are on deck as the country works to improve the product in the post-Irma era #SXMSTRONG.

Port St. Maarten Management continues to work with cruise line itinerary planners as well as local stakeholders in order to ensure that the destination is ready for the first commercial cruise ship calls at the beginning of November. Most recent discussions were held with representatives from Royal Caribbean Lines (RCL) who visited the destination to carry out an assessment.  The delegation was very happy with respect to the clean-up, recovery and rebuilding efforts underway, adding that the cruise line is here to assist the country to “Stand Up.”

The cruise lines have shown their commitment to the destination and are enthusiastic about returning to the island.  A delegation from Carnival Corporation & PLC lead by President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Arnold Donald, that visited the country last month, told port and government officials that they are excited about the spirit, determination and resilience of the people they have met with so far with respect to the rebuilding of the country.

Carnival Corporation was very pleased with the positive attitude, forward thinking and outlook displayed during last month’s visit, and therefore Port St. Maarten Management adds that it is very important for the country to be ready for the first commercial cruise ship calls #SXMSTRONG.

The 24th Annual FCCA Conference and Trade Show is an opportunity to profile the destination post-Hurricane Irma to approximately 1,000 cruise tourism stakeholders and 100 senior cruise executives about where the destination is at that point in time, seven weeks after the passing of one of the most destructive hurricanes in the Caribbean.

The ​FCCA ​Conference ​is ​a four-day ​event ​designed ​to ​foster ​a ​better ​understanding ​of ​the ​inner ​workings ​of ​the ​cruise ​industry and help attendees improve their cruise tourism business during a series of meetings, workshops and networking functions aimed at developing understanding, relationships and business.

Through a specialized forum that blends meetings and workshops with social functions, attendees have a unique opportunity to develop relationships with, promote products to, and learn from approximately 100 executives from FCCA’s 19 Member Lines who decide where ships call, what is sold and used onboard, and how to invest in destinations and infrastructure. 

The FCCA Trade Show presents the opportunity for tour operators and shore-excursion companies to present what type of cruise experience they can offer to passengers once they disembark. 

Exhibiting at the FCCA Trade Show expands the target and captures the attention of the influential audience of key stakeholders and decision makers from FCCA Member Lines. Any booth puts your product, company, or destination on attendees’ and executives’ minds, with events and cruise executive viewings scheduled to maximize traffic, but special destination pavilion options provide the greatest impact at the Trade Show by showcasing a destination product as a team—from vendors and tour operators to destination ministries and port operators.

Port St. Maarten Management calls on the local business community to contact the port at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with respect to participating in the conference or register directly online via the FCCA website: www.f-cca.com

Created in 1972, the FCCA is a not-for-profit trade organization that provides a forum for discussion on tourism development, ports, safety, security, and other cruise industry issue and builds bilateral relationships with destinations' private and public sectors. By fostering an understanding of the cruise industry and its operating practices, the FCCA works with governments, ports and private sector representatives to maximize cruise passenger, crew and cruise line spending, as well as enhance the destination experience and increase the amount of cruise passengers returning as stay-over visitors.

The conference and trade show will take place at the Yucatan Siglo XXI Convention Center, Calle 60, Merida, Yucatan, Mexico.

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More above-normal hurricane activity forecasts between now and end of October

SINT MAARTEN/CARIBBEAN – “We expect that the next two weeks will be characterized by above-normal hurricane activity,” Colorado State University (CSU), Department of Atmospheric Science said in their latest Atlantic Hurricane activity forecast for the period October 13 – 26 that was released on October 13.

The Atlantic is currently experiencing one of the most active Atlantic hurricane seasons on record, CSU said.  The primary threat area for major hurricane activity during the late season is in the western Caribbean.

The primary reason for this above-normal forecast is due to Hurricane Ophelia. Ophelia is likely to generate 5-8 ACE before becoming extratropical, CSU adds.

“The National Hurricane Center has a low potential for a Tropical Cyclone (TC) developing in the central subtropical Atlantic over the next five days. Some global models are also hinting at potential tropical development in the subtropical central Atlantic next week.

“The Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) is forecast to be in phases 5-6 over the next two weeks. These phases tend to be associated with increased vertical wind shear in the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean, suppressing hurricane formation,” CSU said.

CSU points out that this is the ninth year that they have issued shorter-term forecasts of tropical cyclone activity starting in early August. These two-week forecasts are based on a combination of observational and modeling tools.

The primary tools that are used for this forecast are as follows: 1) current storm activity, 2) National Hurricane Center Tropical Weather Outlooks, 3) forecast output from global models, 4) the current and projected state of the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) and 5) the current seasonal forecast.

The Atlantic season has seen 15 named storms to date.  The next named systems in line are: Philippe, Rina, Sean, Tammy, Vince and Whitney.

The hurricane season started on June 1 and officially ends on November 30.

SOUALIGA NEWSDAY REPORT

  

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CIBC FIRSTCARIBBEAN DONATES US$75,000 TO RED CROSS ST. MAARTEN FOR RELIEF AND REBUILDING EFFORTS

PHILIPSBURG - CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank (CIBC FCIB) donated US$75,000 to the St. Maarten Red Cross, aiding in relief and rebuilding efforts on the island.

The funds are part of the USD$450,000, which the bank committed last month to be distributed through the Red Cross and other relief agencies to areas impacted by Hurricane Irma.

“The bank continues to stand with the territories impacted by Hurricane Irma. We have seen great efforts made by the communities to help those in need and rebuild the countries. St. Maarten in particular has not seen such massive devastation in over twenty years. The progress made in the weeks following Irma is commendable and shows the resilience and strength of the island and its people, and CIBC FirstCaribbean is here to ‘lend a hand’ in the rebuilding.” said Pim van der Burg, Managing Director, Corporate and Investment Banking, CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank.

St. Maarten is one of the seven islands where the bank has operations that were affected by the storm in September, however with dedication and hard work by management and staff operations have resumed at its Cole Bay branch and will resume at its new Emmaplein location on Monday October 16th, 2017.

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40 Marketplace vendors file complaint. Ombudsman request answers from Minister TEATT by Monday

PHILIPSBURG - On Friday afternoon, October 13, 2017 the Ombudsman, Dr. Nilda Arduin, met with approximately 40 vendors, many of whom filed a complaint against the decision of the Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation and Telecommunication (TEATT), Mrs. Melissa Arrindell- Doncher, to demolish the kiosks in Philipsburg.

Considering the urgency of the matter, the Ombudsman promptly requested the Minster to answer a number of questions relevant to the issue by Monday, October 16, 2017.

ombudsman mktplace

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SHTA Business Association: Without Dutch assistance, next disasters loom

PHILIPSBURG - Major disasters and stressful situations tend to bring out the best and the worst in people and the organizations managed by them; public and private, and even volunteer.  The indiscriminate nature of Hurricane Irma means that no one has been spared.

Just a month after the passing of Hurricanes Irma and Maria we see some signs of normalcy on St. Maarten, the island is coming back little by little, everyday gets a little better; -a little greener.  Many businesses mostly small and medium size ones are opening their doors to the best of their ability. 

Unfortunately, some that were already doing a balancing act on the edge before the storms have come to the sad conclusion that they are no longer viable and have opted to close permanently e.g. Today newspaper after 10 years of operation.

Many of the larger properties, especially in the accommodation sector are either closed until further notice or will be operating at a significantly reduced capacity for some undetermined time e.g. Sonesta Maho Beach, Sonesta Great Bay, Simpson Bay Resort, Oyster Bay Beach Resort, Divi Little Bay Resort and many others. 

This will translate to less employment directly in the sector, and spin off unemployment in other sectors.  Cruise arrivals will be reduced, and yachting arrivals and length of stays are also likely to be reduced; causing further contraction in employment.   We need to find a way to offer direct assistance to these employees that will become a victim 3 times over of the storm—assistance such as salary replacement, job retraining and even rent subsidies.

In addition to supporting our displaced labor force; Businesses of all sizes, small to large, also need assistance to ensure they not only reopen as soon as possible; but are able to stay open for the long term—The ideal being to rebuild better and stronger. 

In order to accomplish this, subsidies to maintain employees and grants or low interest loans need to be made available to the business community, and in order to do this, the funds need to be made available to St. Maarten in general.

Therefore, we believe that it is vital for the government of the Netherlands to know that the people and the business community of St. Maarten are extremely grateful for all the assistance they have provided thus far; in humanitarian aid, human resources via the Royal Dutch Marines and the Royal Marechaussee; and assets they have deployed.  All of the help given so far has not gone unnoticed and is greatly appreciated.

We are also very cognizant that we still need significantly more assistance on the road to recovery.  Financial assistance needs to be injected into the economy to get it rolling as soon as possible.  Especially as insurance payments seem to be taking some time to start flowing for the rebuild efforts.

All Sint Maarten business leaders are grateful to know that the Kingdom Government is willing to step up and ensure that assistance is there for us.  Therefore, we have no doubt that as responsible and grateful continued recipients of Dutch assistance we too have a fiduciary duty to ensure that every single Euro received in aid is accounted for and disbursed in an integral and fiscally responsible manner.  That aide is disbursed throughout the community and not just to the elite few that know how to ask for it.

Therefore, if the conditions for St. Maarten to continue to receive assistance from Holland translates into an Integrity Chamber which will improve transparency and Increased Border Controls to ensure that in moments of chaos we don't leave the doors open to our enemies, so be it; the business community of St. Maarten welcomes these conditions; and in fact, believes they are overdue.   

In an honest and forthright society, those with nothing to hide should not fear accountability and fiscal responsibility but should welcome it with open arms. Given the reticence of our current Prime Minister to accept the conditions, we are left with only the question of what he is afraid of.

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