PHILIPSBURG – With news that St. Maarten’s record of tourist arrivals for this year is anticipated to be significantly less than last year, a suggestion has been put forward that St. Maarten diversify its tourism product to incorporate more cultural and natural attractions like organized hikes and a botanical garden, and to “piggy back” locally made art off the backs of other products to make them more attractive to visitors as souvenirs.
This suggestion was made by One St. Maarten People Party (OSPP) candidate and local agriculture warrior Joslyn Richardson. “When tourists go on holidays they are not looking for the exact things they left at home. Of course they want their creature comforts, but they also want to experience the culture of the places they visited on their holiday, and want some souvenirs to take back home. So why not make it more available to them while increasing the revenue generated from tourism? We have many persons here who can crotchet. They can crochet special caps with St. Maarten flag for instance to put over the bottle covers at places like Guavaberry. Visitors are already purchasing these items anyway because these are the types of things many tourist buy to take home, and this way they get something extra and the tourist dollar trickles down even further,” Richardson suggested.
He further recommended making art produced by children in art classes around the island’s schools available to tourists in the stores and at the road side stalls, and putting the money generated from this towards replenishing the schools’ art supplies.
“I work with a lot of young people at the schools and I see some of the items they produce and they are beautiful and some look very professional. Many visitors would prefer to buy something like that especially if there is some kind of display saying it is made by a school’s art class. This will also make the youth feel more like part of the tourism sector and make them less likely to do anything to damage the island’s reputation as a tourist paradise,” Richardson said.
He reiterated calls for a botanical garden or natural park to be built on Dutch St. Maarten as a place where tourists can walk around and feel refreshed, and offering hikes and similar activities.
“Over the years I have written constantly to the different governments we have had as far back as 2001, suggesting that we build some type of park, some sort of natural attraction not just for tourists but for local people as well. These suggestions have fallen on deaf ears and all the places that I identified where this could be done have either been sold or used for other projects. Right now there are very few places left on Dutch St. Maarten that this can be done, and those I can identify are on private land, but it’s not too late for St. Maarten to turn things around and start thinking more in terms of cultural and agricultural tourism. This may be just what we need at this time,” concluded Richardson.