PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — Minister Emil Lee recently attended the Caribbean Hotel and Resorts Investment Summit (CHRIS) conference in Miami, representing Sint Maarten as deputy Prime Minister, accompanied by Secretary General of TEATT, Miguel de Weever. Minister Lee participated as a panel member in a discussion on the topic of “Building a better tomorrow after a natural disaster – A Government’s perspective”, together with panel members from the US Virgin islands, British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Anguilla and Haiti. CHRIS is the Caribbean’s most noteworthy hotel investment conference, a prime networking opportunity for Sint Maarten. Lee commented that fruitful discussions were held on opportunities for destination Sint Maarten, discussions beneficial to the reconstruction economy of the country at present.
“Apart from the vast networking opportunities and exchange of knowledge, interesting points from the conference include the recently enacted Tourism Incentive Act of Puerto Rico. Here you see how other countries in the Caribbean are looking to see what they can do to stimulate and incentivized the tourism industry. Everyone from private sector at the conference really emphasized that Government’s participation, as a facilitator in the reconstruction process is critical. It was stressed that locations that have good airlift are of primary interest from an investment perspective. This is where it is sad to see that our current airport rebuilding process may be even more delayed based on the recent announcement of court proceedings between PJIA and NAGICO. Anguilla also stressed that they are very dependent on Sint Maarten for airlift. We have a responsibility to our neighbors and ourselves to make sure that the airport is fully operational as soon as possible.” – Minister Emil Lee
Investors at the conference spoke of ‘Maximum Risk Adjustment Returns, meaning that investors are no longer looking at simple business models. Business models and plans are adjusted based on the risk factors. The better the infrastructure, the more attractive the investment, these considerations influence the risk factor of an investment. These are important factors to be aware of from the investor perspective. That Sint Maarten is further improving its infrastructure and putting electricity and water lines underground creates less risk for investors and making the country more attractive for investors.
Over 300 conference delegates, representing 28 countries were in attendance. Lee met representatives of the Hilton hotel group, whom are currently flagging a property on Sint Maarten. Representatives of the Apple Leisure Group, an upcoming powerhouse in the tourism industry also expressed interest in a management contract on the island. The networking opportunities continued with several construction companies who are interested in bidding applications for current construction projects on the island. These companies and contractors expressed interest in the local labour market, work permit procedures and housing availability. Suppliers of building materials were also in attendance and networking, expressing interest in distribution and demonstration opportunities on Sint Maarten. Sunwing representatives, owners of the former Great Bay hotel, were also present at the conference as well as representatives of the World Bank.
Prime Minister Leona Marlin-Romeo was originally invited to attend and represent Sint Maarten at the CHRIS conference. The Prime Minister was unable to attend due to conflicting commitments. Minister Lee was asked to attend on her behalf as deputy Prime Minister.