PHILIPSBURG–The Ministry of Tourism and Economic Affairs TEATT is seeking to put together a promotional board with the core task of promoting the destination and product development. This body is seen as a stepping-stone to the long-awaited St. Maarten Tourism Authority.
The “source of funding mechanism” still has to be established and should come in the third quarter of this year to coincide with increased room inventory, said Minister Stuart Johnson to Parliament’s TEATT committee on Wednesday.
Government will conduct an online assessment of accommodation booking sites such as VRBO, Airbnb, Home Away and Flip Key to determine more ways to generate revenue. Johnson said the travelling market has changed with more people seeking to stay in condos and villas.
The country’s website
www.vacationstmaarten.com needs revamping. It currently serves as a landing page that links to Facebook.com. NAf. 20,000 has been allocated in the draft 2019 budget to upgrade and modernise the site.
A photoshoot with local photographers and models to create stock photo content for the destination will be launched this month with a budget of NAf. 35,000.
The country’s marketing representative in the United States are up for review. The performance has been noted as “weak.” Similarly, the country’s public relations firm in Europe has also had a weak performance review and the contract will not be renewed. An exit strategic has to be discussed with the company and government, as the contract ends in October.
Aside from the key markets of the United States and Canada, Johnson said focus will be placed on South America. A joint marketing approach is planned together with the French side and Anguilla in Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Argentina. Some NAf. 279,000 has been set aside for this.
To encourage more events and boost promotion, tourism funds have been committed to St. Maarten Heineken Regatta (NAf. 350,000), SXM Music Festival NAf. 180,000 and American University of the Caribbean Medical School Disaster Medicine Conference NAf. 45,000, among others.
The Tourism Ministry also has plans to extend sailing months into June and July with heavy promotion, and to carry out a multi-annual campaign to extend the tourist season in general, local tourism awareness campaigns and customer service training. These and other related plans will be funded from an allocation of NAf. 473,000.
A total of NAf. 300,000 has been set aside for a tourism training and certification programme to ensure each worker on the tourism frontline is knowledgeable and equipped to promote the destination and to meet and exceed visitor expectation.
A rating and standard system is to be developed for restaurants and activities.
Johnson will be back in Parliament in the coming weeks to continue discussion on more tourism-related topics with the TEATT Committee. Wednesday’s meeting was suspended after covering some four agenda points.