COCI says St. Maarten cannot be complacent

PHILIPSBURG–Executive Director of the St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce and Industry (COCI) Anastacio Baker said while St. Maarten is on the right track in terms of bouncing back after a natural disaster, the country cannot become complacent when it comes to maintaining its edge in the cruise industry.

“We cannot become complacent as there are other destinations that are working tirelessly to gain the edge on St. Maarten,” Baker said in a press release on Wednesday.
He said the collaborative efforts between COCI and stakeholders in St. Maarten’s quest to let the world know the country is open for business was heard and seen last October at the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) Conference in Mexico, and at the Sea Trade Cruise Global Conference in Fort Lauderdale, Florida from March 4 to 9.
“It is very important that each business owner continuously train and educate their staff on the importance of providing the best service to each customer that enters their establishments or make use of their services,” he said.

Family travel is a 500-billion-dollar industry and bookings amongst families have increased by 26 per cent. “This is a trend that we as destination St. Maarten must adjust to, to fulfil the needs of the family travellers,” Baker noted.
“The fact that more families are travelling together, we as a country should position ourselves to maximize on this noticeable trend by exploring investment possibilities in family fun activities. As COCI, we will continue to do our part by contribution towards the economic development of St. Maarten, however, it is up to all of us to ensure that once travellers return to our shores that their experience with us is second to none and that they would return yearly.”

Baker and COCI board member A. Friday represented the Chamber at the Sea Trade Cruise Global Conference. The event brought together cruise stakeholders from around the world. Approximately 11,000 participants attended this year including cruise line executives, cruise destinations representatives, suppliers, travellers and journalists from around the world. In addition to COCI, St. Maarten’s delegation included Port St. Maarten, Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA), Ministry of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications (TEATT), St. Maarten Tourist Bureau, Toppers Rum and the St. Martin Tourist Office.

Baker said the focus was communicating that St. Maarten is open for business and inviting everyone to visit and rediscover the “Friendly Island.”
MSC Cruises representative Valentina Pietropaolo said the strong rebranding efforts and the strong delegation representing St. Maarten at the conference sent a clear message that St. Maarten is open for business and is serious about its brand. St. Maarten was branded and mentioned in most cruise magazines as well as in the leading cruise magazine Porthole Cruise, whose representatives were also present at the Conference.

Porthole Cruise magazine representatives distributed more than 10,000 copies of the edition which featured St. Maarten. The entire back cover of the magazine was branded “Come and rediscover St. Maarten, the Friendly Island. We are open for business and building back better.” The feature was sponsored by the Port St. Maarten, COCI and the St. Maarten Tourist office.

An article in Travel & Cruise magazine first quarter 2018 stated that “St. Maarten’s return to prominence and lessons for other cruise destinations” to follow. “St. Maarten was always a go- to reference when often asked what destination does it right. The sense of unity and collaboration was palpable and visible with tour operators laying down bricks on Front Street and dozens of stakeholders organising clean ups. These were many working as one, which continues today.”

The author of the article said he is truly excited for the people of St. Maarten and the Port of St. Maarten, “they have the right momentum needed to capitalize on the industry growth. The activation of citizens as destination ambassadors along with their stories and the new and improved experiences will continue to keep St. Maarten as a leading destination of choice in the Caribbean.” He urged other destinations to consider this story and the stories they can tell when considering how to build momentum of their own.
Another much talked about rebranding concept was that St. Maarten was branded on all the key cards at the Hilton hotel, which was one of the major hotels that hosted most of the participants.

During workshop sessions at the conference, it was mentioned that bookings for cruises in the Caribbean had fallen sharply after the passing of the hurricanes. However, by end October/early November 2017, bookings had returned to the same level where they had been before the devastating hurricanes.

Source: The Daily Herald