Tourism updates, plans presented | THE DAILY HERALD


PHILIPSBURG–St. Maarten Tourism Bureau gave a tourism industry update at the St. Maarten Innovation, Initiatives and Industries Linkup Event (SMILE) held at University of St. Martin (USM) over the weekend. Spearheaded by St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA), SMILE attracted more than 300 attendees (see related story).

The presentation given by St. Maarten Tourism Bureau Director May-Ling Chun, along with others by some of the island’s biggest corporate players, helped to give an overall picture of local economic development and the business climate in general.

Insights from the recently released 2018 Tourism Exit Survey (TES) were included. In collaboration with the Department of Statistics STAT, TES compiled results based on 642 forms that captured 1,368 stay-over visitors in March, gathered at Princess Juliana International Airport.

According to the TES, the average party size was 2.2 persons, average length of stay 8.4 nights, and average visitor’s age 45. Some 27 per cent of respondents were first-time visitors and 65 per cent were repeat visitors who had been here five times or more.

The average expenditure was US $101.69, compared to $141.55 in 2017 and $122.60 in 2013. As for passenger arrivals (in the stayover sector), the half-year mark for 2018 was 74,474, compared to 295,570 in 2017. For the full report, see .

While the numbers may change, it is estimated that some 2,167 accommodation units will be available by the end of the fourth quarter of 2018 (56 per cent of the pre-Irma number), and 2,661 units by the end of the first quarter of 2019 (67 per cent of the pre-Irma number). Today, it stands at 1,330 units (34 per cent of the pre-Irma number).

As for airlift, there are eight markets with direct access in the United States, two in Canada, three in Europe, 14 in the Caribbean, and one in Latin America.

Looking forward, strategic marketing- and product-development objectives were shared.

The top 10 priority areas were identified as revisiting the Tourism Master Plan, including analysis of the St. Maarten Tourism Authority (STA) structure and role; executing product development enhancement actions such as customer service training; developing a tourism awareness programme; increasing prompt and intense public relations efforts; the overall enhancement of the tourism product through fostering niche initiatives, trainings, certification and standards; executing a consistent marketing plan synchronising all social media platforms; a cruise conversion programme; tourist statistical information data collecting; and the revision of all the market representatives’ objectives, goals and actions.

Efforts listed to increase tourism receipts included continuing cooperative marketing efforts with Expedia and TripAdvisor; targeting niche markets; including community tourism; improving the meetings, incentives, conferences and events (MICE) sector; and reactivating the interline agreement for airline development with St. Martin, Anguilla, St. Barths, and the British Virgin Islands.

A rating system for hotels/restaurants/activities, a tourism awareness plan, training and certification programmes, establishing policies and legislation, and beautification projects are also part of the plan to move the industry forward.

The top issues facing tourism were identified as carrying capacity; cleanliness in key areas, which is a major concern; deteriorating customer service levels and the retail model no longer matching the needs of visitors; and more activities that enhance the experience are needed.

Capacity is an issue, as key accommodations (larger hotels) are still closed, in particular The Westin Dawn Beach Resort and Spa, Diamond Resorts, Sonesta Maho Beach Resort (opening soon) and Sunwing Planet Hollywood, which account for more than 36 per cent of room capacity pre-Hurricane Irma.

The reconstruction of the airport is also part of the of carrying capacity challenge.

Source: The Daily Herald