SINT MAARTEN - Two big things appear to be happening almost simultaneously on Sint Maarten regarding timesharing, according to online Publisher Jeff Berger of SXM Weekly News, that serves more than 285,000 subscribers around the world.
“The first is a new timeshare ordinance which we referred to in the past as the first embodiment on SXM of timeshare owner consumer protection. SXM Weekly News has obtained an English-language copy of the ordinance and we're looking at it closely. We'll let you know our opinion of it once we've digested it and compared it to reasonable timeshare owner expectations regarding consumer protection legislation.
“The second is a government Authority to be established to oversee the resolution of complaints from timeshare owners. We have also obtained an English-language version of that ordinance and are taking a close look at it as well.
“However, in talks with a number of people associated with the timeshare industry on the island, and with a few selected timeshare owners, it appears there is nearly unanimous opposition to the establishment of the Authority.
“First, opponents argue that it will raise the cost timeshare owners pay to use their units every year, since the cost of the bureaucracy will be assessed upon timeshare owners. To us, this looks like yet another tax on timeshare owners wearing a remarkably ineffective disguise. That makes it a bad idea -- one that slams the most loyal and productive component of the entire island economy
“Second, many resorts have undergone substantial renovations in recent years and have no complaints whatsoever. Arguably the worst of the lot is Ray Sidhom's Alegria Resort, which attempted to void timeshare owner contracts and throw out timeshare owners upon taking over the bankrupt Caravanserai property. It looks like the "Caravanserai debacle" as we branded it didn't occur to those who drafted this bill.
“There, thousands of timeshare owners had millions of dollars in investments expropriated by owner Ray Sidhom. Timeshare owners howled loudly upon deaf government ears. With that glaring exception and Sapphire Beach Resort, which is getting back in the good graces of its timeshare owners, there are precious few complaints.
“It strikes most opponents that there are far better ways of adjudicating complaints than establishing an expensive bureaucracy which could conceivably cost timeshare owners another $200 per week per year, a fee which once again could mortally damage the timeshare sector of the St. Maarten economy which already is incredibly fragile. “Worse, if that's possible, is that this $200 weekly can then not be spent for meals, jewelry, etc., on SXM -- a huge hit where businesses are already reeling (more on that is coming in future weeks).
“We are still examining this and we'll have more comments soon, but our initial reaction is that this is a huge overreach which will seriously damage St. Maarten's economy. We think, as do others, that there are much better, simpler, far less expensive solutions, and as we get more deeply into this we'll likely be talking about them right here and calling for your help in making your feelings known about this proposed Authority,” Online Publisher Jeff Berger concludes in his most recent weekly newsletter.