PHILIPSBURG – Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Traffic and Telecommunication (TEATT) Mellissa Arrindell-Doncher addressed the press in Wednesday’s, May 10, Council of Ministers Press Briefing.
She first on behalf of the United St. Maarten Party (USP) and her cabinet extended deepest condolences to the family of Neville York. “A great St. Maartener and Cultural Ambassador. His knowledge, his presence, his contribution and dedication to St. Maarten and his gentlemanly ways would be greatly missed,” she said.
Minister Arrindell-Doncher also shared positive news on new and expanding airlift to St. Maarten “and what this would mean to the economy should everything pan out as planned.”
“After negotiations in Brussels by the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau (STB), TUWI Fly Belgium will operate a weekly flight between Brussels and St. Maarten this Winter season. This is a first ever nonstop flight from Brussels to St. Maarten. The Brussels-St. Maarten operation will start on October 30 this year, and for now has been planned for the entire winter season until April 9, 2018,” Minister Arrindell-Doncher informed.
It will be a once a week flight on Monday, and will be executed in combination with TUWI destination Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. TUWI Fly Belgium will also use a Boeing 787 Dash 8 Dreamliner on a new route similar to the type of aircraft TUWI Fly Netherlands uses for its flights from Amsterdam to St. Maarten. “And the new Brussels-St. Maarten route is not only attractive for Belgium, but also provides an alternative for Dutch travelers in southern Netherlands,” the Minister noted.
Seaborne Airline, in collaboration with STB have launched daily flights out of San Juan, Puerto Rico, “with the purpose of driving prices lower on that critical route ahead of the busy Caribbean travel period normally experienced between June and August. These daily flights by Seaborne commences on May 5 and will run until next year,” Minister Arrindell-Doncher said.
“Prior to this Seaborne used to service St. Maarten four times a week in high season, and three times a week in no season. From here on, it will be seven flights in no season, which will drive more Caribbean traffic to the destination,” the Minister continued.
“We have secured an agreement with Seaborne Airlines that will result in a 20 percent discounted fare for all locals of St. Maarten. They can book online or on phone and present a valid ID or a Dutch passport upon departure. Seaborne would also, as part of our incentive deal, offer free travel vouchers when necessary for government to travel on business, saving the government and taxpayers potentially thousands of guilders a year. Seaborne will also be working with SVB on servicing critical routes that have since been dropped by LIAT such as St. Croix and St. Thomas,” the Minister further informed.
“I’m also pleased to announce the commencement of service of Sunrise Airways out of Haiti, which also connects to St. Maarten and Cuba due to the airline’s strong presence in the economy in the country. Sunrise offers service to Havana and Santiago de Cuba and connects St. Maarten to that destination. Sunrise will begin service to St. Maarten at the end of June, twice a week with the goal of servicing a destination four times a week should load factors meet its expectations,” Minister Arrindell-Doncher stated.
Sunrise Airways was founded in 2010 and provides commercial charter flights in mid-2015 servicing Santo Domingo and paved the way for further expansion including Cuba. Its international destinations include, the Bahamas, Orlando, Turks and Caicos, Cuba, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic.
Also, the TEATT Ministry and the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau will meet with Southwest Airlines in October in Dallas, Texas, to finalize discussions on the St. Maarten-Fort Lauderdale route, which is supposed to commence in 2018.
The TEATT Minister also informed that the SMART trade show will be held June 14. The Association des Hôteliers de Saint Martin, Saint-Martin Tourism Office, St. Maarten Tourist Bureau, in conjunction with the St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA) and the American Hotel Trade Association are expecting numerous operators, travel agents, travel writers and event planners from the US, Canada, Europe, Latin America to return to the island for this important event.
The trade show provides a unique opportunity for local and regional hoteliers and activity providers to present their tourism product network, and negotiate prospective business opportunities during the trade show. Travel partners and wholesalers as well as hotel and excursion operators come together for one on one discussions on potential business ventures. This event provides a day and a half of prescheduled appointments, sessions and activities where these buyers can meet and conduct business with suppliers in the tourism industry.
In previous years SMART featured suppliers from Anguilla, Barbados, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Guadeloupe, Montserrat, including St. Maarten.
Finally, the Minister congratulated the Carnival Development Foundation on a job well done in organizing and executing Carnival 2017. “St. Maarten Carnival continues to grow and the consequence of this growth is greater economic impact for our island. As you know all kinds of subsidies comes from the TEATT Ministry with the intention that SCDF use the majority of these funds in marketing this festival regionally and internationally. Judging by hotel bookings alone through this month of April, Carnival continues to do very well for the economy of St. Maarten,” Minister Arrindell-Doncher observed.
“This leaves the positive economic spinoff for hotels, restaurants, car rentals and Carnival Village and events. Social media and online activity also increased this year with the SCDF utilizing its very popular Facebook page with more than 40,000 likes, Snapchat, Instagram and its website to engage potential visitors from across the world who know now about St. Maarten’s Carnival,” she continued.
“The SCDF should also be commended for working with two of the island’s largest tour operators Nexus tours and Bella tours in executing Carnival Village tours for visitors and exporting this part of our culture,” the Minister said.
She once again thanked and congratulated the board and volunteers of SCDF for the tireless work they put into Carnival on an annual basis. “We all sometimes underestimate the magnitude of work that it takes to pull off such an event. The Ministry of TEATT and in particular the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau will continue to work with SCDF to facilitate further growth of St. Maarten’s annual event,” Minister Arrindell-Doncher concluded.