PHILIPSBURG–No investor wants to have ties with any destination with a constant change of the people in charge and no country can properly develop if policies and plans are changed constantly with the political wind, said United People’s (UP) leader Member of Parliament Theo Heyliger on Tuesday.
The party leader said the country’s report card, handed to Parliament by representatives of the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) on Monday, should serve as a serious wake up call for all sections of St. Maarten. “To hear the FCCA representatives warn St. Maarten about complacency was very difficult for me. It was difficult, because St. Maarten has been an industry leader and innovator for most of its time in as a cruise destination. However, it is very obvious that we have dropped the ball,” he said.
“St. Maarten is becoming an aging and uncared for product and this is in large part thanks to government instability. The ability to plan well for the future and stay on the cusp of the cruise industry has been severely hampered in recent years due to instability,” Heyliger said.
The destination and its economy have suffered “a huge blow” with the opening up of a new pier in Tortola. The investment by Disney Cruises in the British Virgin Islands came at the loss of St. Maarten, said Heyliger. “Disney Cruises had its eye on St. Maarten and discussions were ongoing before the UP-led government was kicked out of office and along with it the innovation and boost St. Maarten needed.”
Disney Cruises representative in the Parliament meeting, Russell Daya, made it very clear to MPs that St. Maarten was being considered, but at the crucial decision time, there was “government instability” and the cruise line looked elsewhere, said Heyliger. “Thanks also to that instability and lack of direction, we did not only lose investment, we lost all Disney calls.”
It is true, he said, that cruise passengers do not feel the impact of government instability. “Passengers do feel the outcome, or lack thereof, that instability brings. They experience a destination that does not pay attention to upgrading its infrastructure, keeping up with innovation and the lack of interest and commitment from the government and the private sector,” said Heyliger.
He stated: “The administrative side of the cruise industry comprising FCCA and its member lines feel the impact of instability directly when the people will deal with change constantly, when plans are shelved or calls are not even returned.”
Heyliger said: “If it was not clear before, the assessment of the country by the FCCA representatives calls for all stakeholders to not only take notice, but to also take action. “Renewing of our tourism product is not quick fix nor is it unfixable. We as St. Maarten must decide what we want. Do we want instability to continue to make our country lag behind or do we want to have a consolidated and firm push to make the destination better?” he asked.
“Guidance from government to refresh and reinvigorate the tourism product cannot be underscored enough. Without a government that understands what makes this economy grow and without one that knows to embrace innovation and out-of-the-box thinking not much will happen for S. Maarten,” Heyliger said.
The flagging cruise industry affects every single person on St. Maarten and every business, the party leader said. “No matter if we like or dislike the cruise industry, the economy trickles down from ships coming into port has an impact on all sections of the country, starting with government’s ability to provide services.”
To the business community, Heyliger said this is the time in St. Maarten’s history more than ever the link between government’s ability to plan and continuously generate businesses and the bottom line of businesses can clearly be seen. “Without a government that can be innovative and represent the interest of the country well, decline is inevitable,” he said.
Source: Daily Herald
Heyliger: ‘Loss of cruise competitive edge direct result of govt. instability’