Johnson discusses regional hub improvement plan with Saba | THE DAILY HERALD

St. Maarten government representative with tourism ministry officials from Saba and St. Maarten stand together at Queen’s Garden in Saba.

SABA– St. Maarten Tourism Minister Stuart Johnson was in Saba on Monday for meetings about solidifying St. Maarten’s hub function with the neighbouring island and to foster joint marketing initiatives.

Johnson’s visit was part of his ministry’s strategic development plan in collaboration with private partners to discuss Princess Juliana International Airport’s (PJIA’s) regional hub function and improve the airport’s presence following Hurricane Irma.

Johnson assured Saba government officials and tourism representatives of St. Maarten’s commitment to strengthening its regional hub function to support the neighbouring islands’ transportation needs.

Johnson met in Queen’s Gardens Resort with Saba Commissioners Bruce Zagers and Rolando Wilson, with whom he initiated discussions regarding Saba co-signing the St. Maarten-St. Martin-Anguilla memorandum of understanding (MOU) for a comprehensive 10-year Tourism Master Plan. The MOU is expected to be the first tangible step to fostering greater communication in the area of destination promotion.

Both governments committed to review and address the challenges and legislation in the maritime industry, including addressing Customs- and immigration-related issues, to facilitate seamless day trips to the islands, especially for cruise passengers.

Efforts are to be made to improve data collection to extract realistic information about interline passengers who headed to Saba and the neighbouring islands from St. Maarten. This mined data can be used to attract more airlift to the islands.

The meeting also covered strengthening the relationship between Saba and St. Maarten in marketing and public relations by promoting St. Maarten as one destination with several options for day trips, maximising exposure efforts in the United States, Canada, Brazil, Argentina and the Benelux markets.

St. Maarten Tourist Bureau Interim Director May-Ling Chun shared the recovery of hotels, during the meeting. Some 1,307 rooms were back online, representing 34 per cent of the room inventory, with an expected increase to 56 per cent by the end of the fourth quarter of this year. Some 56 land and water excursions are back online.

Windward Islands Airways International Winair is increasing its service to Saba by creating an earlier flight to allow business and leisure visitors to St. Maarten to arrive some 90 minutes earlier. Winair Chief Executive Officer Michael Clever said the airline continues to work on its interline agreements with major airlines and can sell tickets from any destination worldwide to Saba.

PJIA Chief Operations Officer Michel Hyman said efforts are on the way to ensure that the St. Maarten airport is ready for the busy season. The operations will initially be restricted to the ground floor of the terminal building. Passenger access to services on arrival and departure have already been planned to increase comfort and ease of travel.

Also representing Saba in the meeting were Island Secretary Tim Muller, Policy Advisor on Infrastructure Sarah van der Horn, Director of Tourism Glenn Holm, Assistant Director of Tourism Desire Johnson and Saba Tourism Bureau Policy Advisor Nicole Johnson.

Source: The Daily Herald