MIAMI, Florida–The timeshare sector may be the largest slice of St. Maarten’s tourism pie, but governmental representation at industry conferences is slow and industry leaders are calling for this to change.
Government representatives at the conference will show support for the industry and can give developers reasons investing in their destination makes sense. Lack of presence means loss of opportunity to promote development possibilities, said Interval International Director Resort Sales and Marketing Neil Kolton.
More government representation is needed at industry conferences such as the ongoing Interval-hosted annual International Shared Ownership Investment Conference in Miami Beach, Florida, Kolton said. His call was not only directed to St. Maarten, but governments across the Caribbean.
Prime Minister William Marlin was a speaker at last year’s conference. This year, however, there is no governmental representation in spite of the timeshare sector being the largest slice of the country’s tourism pie and the consistency of timeshare owners’ return after disasters such as Hurricane Irma.
St. Maarten is only represented at the conference by resort officials from The Westin St. Maarten Dawn Beach Resort and Spa, Oyster Bay Beach Resort and Divi Little Bay Beach Resort.
The shared ownership sector is also a critical partner in maintenance of airlift to a destination. Airlines are aware that in destinations like St. Maarten a robust timeshare sector means 40-50 per cent of their seats will be filled, said Kolton.
Developers are putting more emphasis on continuously investing in upgrading. St. Maarten and Aruba are “on par” with the rest of the world in properties upgrading, he said. A factor driving upgrades is the buy-in to timeshare by Generation X-ers and millennials.
Some 27 per cent of owners want to take more vacation and purchase more time in Caribbean. These travellers are looking for beachfront locales (86 per cent) and tropical destinations (46 per cent). “The Caribbean is a sweet spot.”
The Caribbean continues to be “the number one highly desirable destination.” This is reflected in the demand for more vacation time by existing owners and developers investing in new properties.
The demand for Caribbean destinations is coupled with a call for authentic experiences. Timeshare owners want “to immerse in local culture. … They want to get away from the resorts to connect with the local communities.”
Timeshare owners have “an extra level of commitment” to their destinations. Timeshare owners are showing their connection to St. Maarten and other hurricane-touched destinations. Kolton said St. Maarten developers are “blown away” by the concern and attention timeshare owners have given to helping out staff and their families.