PHILIPSBURG – Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications (Ministry TEATT) Hon. Claret Connor officially opened the 14th Edition of St. Maarten/St. Martin Annual Regional Trade Show (SMART) 2015 on Wednesday at Sonesta Maho Beach Resort & Casino.
SMART is a three day event bringing together tourism stakeholders such as Tour Operators, Travel Agents, Travel Writers, and Event Planners to support, interact and promote tourism to the Eastern Caribbean.
International stakeholders come from as far as the United States of America, Canada, Europe, and Latin America.
During the Ministers address to SMART attendees, he pointed out the successes of 2014: a record two million plus cruise passengers; stay-over tourism visitors’ increase of 10 per cent compared to 2013; overall hotel occupancy averaged upwards of 80 per cent; Port St. Maarten captured the award for Best Cruise Port Destination for 2014; Princess Juliana International Airport was voted for “Most Stunning Landing” in the world by travel fans from around the globe.
The Minister also made mention of hotel property upgrades and improvements and made reference to Sonesta Maho Beach ‘Ocean Point’ where the official opening SMART 2015 ceremony took place.
“Factors such as these continue to provide a memorable experience for our visitors. As a government we are cognizant of the fact that Tourism has taken its place as a vital contributor to our economy. We are also aware of the fact that the tourism industry is a volatile industry, bringing with it many challenges and opportunities.
“Against that backdrop, plans are underway to invest in new projects and new attractions geared to capture new opportunities while creating a more productive and sustainable economy for all.
The St. Maarten Tourism Authority is an example of government’s commitment to this sector. Once commissioned, this authority will revisit our current marketing strategies and focus primarily on penetrating other markets such as Germany, the Scandinavian countries, more of South America, such as Columbia and the Caribbean.
“At a time when we all must be frugal with our spending on marketing and advertising activities, it is important for us as partners in the industry to remain vigilant by minding our business; our Tourism business. Vigilant by constantly assessing and reassessing the way we do business. “This is indeed a very SMART approach. With these words ladies and gentlemen, I thank you for your expression of commitment to this event and this sector. SMART without a doubt; continues to become one of our flagship events providing the ideal platform for different industry players to discuss trends and forge new business relationships. I am confident that in the years to come, SMART will elevate to greater pinnacles. I wish you all a successful event and a wonderful stay on St. Maarten/St. Martin,” Minister of TEATT Hon. Claret Connor told SMART attendees at the official opening on Wednesday.
The trade show provides a unique opportunity for local and regional hoteliers and activity providers to present their tourism service or product; network; and negotiate prospective business opportunities.
Besides tourism stakeholders from St. Maarten/St. Martin, regional participants have included reps from Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, Cayman Islands, Saba and Puerto Rico.
SMART attendees will have hotel and excursion operations; one-on-one discussions on potential business ventures; and much more.
PHOTO CUTLINE: L to R, Minister Hon. Rita Bourne-Gumbs, Minister Hon. Claret Connor, President of the French St. Martin Tourist office Jeanne Rogers-Vanterpool and Prime Minister Hon. Marcel Gumbs. (DCOMM Photo)