St. Martin Tourism Office President Valérie Damaseau and Dutch-side Tourism Minister Stuart Johnson cut the ribbon to open the 15th edition of SMART at Sonesta Maho Beach Resort, Casino and Spa last night. (Robert Luckock photo)
MAHO–Carnival revellers, stilt walkers and a steel band welcomed participants and stakeholders to the opening party for the fifteenth edition of the St. Martin/St. Maarten Annual Regional Tradeshow (SMART) at Sonesta Maho Beach Resort, Casino and Spa last night.
The much-anticipated event, a critically important one in showcasing the island’s recovery, is organised by L’Association des Hoteliers de Saint Martin, St. Martin Tourism Office, St. Maarten Tourist Bureau, and St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA).
More than 170 companies are attending the event this year, including media, artists and NGOs from both sides of the island. This networking event consists of three days of master classes, workshops, festivities, mystery dinners, pre-scheduled appointment sessions and activities. It is the largest, most energetic and most well-attended trade show in the Northeastern Caribbean.
Fifteen different speakers will assist the Northeastern Caribbean tourism sector with an overview of the latest developments in tourism. Another innovation this year is a Green Room to work on sustainable tourism.
Opening remarks were made by St. Maarten Minister of Tourism Stuart Johnson and St. Martin Tourism Office President Valérie Damaseau before both cut the ribbon to officially open the event. Speeches were preceded by a rendition of the St. Martin Song by Voice talent show finalist and You Tube sensation 15-year-old Tamillia Chance.
Also at the gathering were St. Maarten Minister of Education, Sports and Culture Wycliffe Smith and Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labour Emil Lee.
Maho Group Director of Entertainment and Guest Experience Shep Shephard welcomed SMART participants and talked briefly on Maho’s spectacular recovery.
“SMART 2019 is a symbol of our island’s rebirth and that of infrastructure in the region,” said Damaseau. “This trade show is an opportunity for all local and regional stakeholders to establish business relationships with Canadians, Europeans, North and South America and Caribbean operators. I’m sure regular and new participants will benefit from the workshops, meetings and exchanges. The future looks bright. I wish you all fruitful and constructive exchanges over the three days.”
Minister Johnson said in his remarks: “No one could have imagined one year and eight months after [Hurricane – Ed.] Irma, given the damage to Sonesta, that we would be back here again. Thanks to the management of Sonesta and other hotels that have reopened, we can safely say we are open for business. I must commend Sonesta for returning life to Maho.
“I firmly believe that this trade show and others like it help us to rebuild our tourism economy. I must also commend the hard work and effort the SHTA makes every year to promote SMART. It continues to be the voice of reason and the example of how St. Martin must move in tourism and economy sectors.
“To you attendees I say welcome and thank you for joining us.”
SMART is hosting visitors from Anguilla, Antigua, Bahamas, Belgium, Bonaire, Canada, Curaçao, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, France, Guadeloupe, Italy, Montserrat, the Netherlands, Panama, Puerto Rico, Saba, St. Barths, St. Eustatius, St. Martin, St. Kitts, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.