Strong return for SMART, increase vendors welcomed

DAWN BEACH–The working floor of St. Maarten/St. Martin Annual Regional Tradeshow (SMART) in The Westin St. Maarten Dawn Beach Resort and Spa was abuzz with activity on Thursday, the first day of appointments between suppliers (hoteliers and activities) and buyers (online and large tour operators) who were elated that the tradeshow has returned after a year’s absence.

Very welcomed by attendees were the increase in vendors who offered a variety of products from traditional hospitality items such as food and beverage and the not so traditional – makeup and body care products.

First time SMART attendee and vendor Michelle Christian of Glamaty Caribbean showcased her St. Maarten-inspired makeup. She saw attending SMART as a stepping stone to further introduce her line afield, but also as a way to gain more of a foothold at home.

“I have had meetings with several resorts about carrying my product in boutiques and added to their incentive packages,” Christian said.

Karen Hana of Alegria Resort said she liked the addition of more vendors and having the tradeshow back after skipping last year. It was good to see familiar faces and to offer buyers the opportunity for site inspections, she said.

Stanley Francis of Antigua-based National Tours and Services said he has never missed a SMART and considered it important to attend. “St. Maarten is home and you should support home,” he said.

Aside from his tour business, Francis does direct export of alcohol from St. Maarten to Antigua every two weeks. This is a lucrative link for him, he noted.

Eliska Hesova, Sonesta Business Development Director, said it was great to have the tradeshow back and it was definitely a boost for smaller properties as well as a way for larger properties like Sonesta to keep in contact with its partners.

Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort and Spa and Sonesta Maho Beach Resort and Casino have had good occupancy rate for the high season. Hesova said the numbers look good for the low season as well. However, one drawback, she noted, is the resorts like others locally have had to cut rates to compete with regional levels.

Wyb Meijer of SMART co-organiser St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA) was happy with the response to the tradeshow by attendees along with the increased attendance by smaller hotel properties. As for the vendors, he said they have given good feedback about their placement in the main walkway in sight of – and accessible to all attendees.

Competing airlines St. Maarten-based Windward Islands Airways International Winair and Curaçao based Insel Air were both at SMART meeting with both resort representatives and buyers.

Resorts from the French side, Saba, St. Eustatius and Anguilla were present at the tradeshow that continues today, Friday.

SMART included a number of workshops conducted by, among others, the Caribbean Hospitality and Trade Association (CHTA).

The tradeshow is organised by L’Association des Hoteliers de St. Martin, Saint Martin Tourism Office in conjunction with St. Maarten Tourist Bureau and SHTA.

Source: The Daily Herald