Every year on the 27th of September, the world celebrates the World Tourism Day since 1980, when the United Nations World Tourism Organization has declared World Tourism Day as an international observances day. The purpose of this day is to raise awareness among the society globally on the role of tourism within the international community and to demonstrate how it affects social, cultural, political and economic values worldwide. It is also to feature and recognize the commitment the tourism industry can make in achieving these objectives. The theme of 2017 was “Sustainable Tourism – a tool for development”. For 2018, the theme is “TOURISM AND CULTURAL PROTECTION”.
In an interview with Mrs. May-Ling A.M.R. Chun, Director of Tourism, she explains that Sint Maarten has more to offer, than only activities on World Tourism Day.
‘Tourism has become an important sector that has an impact on development of St. Maarten/St. Martin’s economy. The main benefits of tourism are income creation and generation of jobs. For many regions and countries, it is the most important source of welfare. For our destination it is the largest source income of our economy. Stakeholders and partially the community benefit from it.
What special activities does the Tourist office have on this day/or week during, before and after Tourism Day?
During this stage of the island’s recovery period, it’s very important to raise the awareness of tourism. It is decided that the Sint Maarten Tourist Bureau (STB) conducts a series of activities on the 27th and days after like: Minister will address community and beyond with a World Tour Day message at 7 am. St. Maarten Tourist Bureau will have Radio interviews, Recognize someone in the Tourism Industry aligned with the technological or digital Industry; choosing tourism ambassador and We will conduct Live Streaming from certain location on Island as well as some speeches
Tourism is St. Maarten’s main economic driver and given the recent dynamics, raising the awareness among all segments of the population is very important.
What main policy focal points Sint Maarten has to attract Tourists to our Country?
The St. Maarten Tourist Bureau recognizes that the environment in which St. Maarten operates is ever-evolving. After Hurricane Irma crisis management had to be implemented overnight to handle the destroyed tourism product of St. Maarten. The ever-evolving tourism product is even more present now as we are going through the post-Irma stage of restoring and rebuilding the nation. It will be at least two years before the destination will be up to its full capacity again.
Disasters create also opportunities and St. Maarten is in an ideal position to be able to not only rebuild its tourism product but to also revisit the Tourism Master Plan and update according to the direction we would like to take with the tourism product. It is of utmost importance that the tourism master plan is synergy with the National Recovery plan and that all stakeholders are involved for an effective execution of such plan. This will provide a sustainable tourism product.
There are a few very crucial actions that have to be taken in order for us to execute in a very efficient and effective manner. The St. Maarten Tourist Bureau has conducted a re-evaluation and analysis on the marketing and product development action points. A revised plan for 2018 has been put together based on the tourism product being a limited due to lack of inventory of lodging, excursions, restaurants, shopping.
Based on the current situation St. Maarten will focus on preparation of the tourism product. This means that we are able to rebuild a bigger and better product and establish as one of the top 5 best destinations in the Caribbean. This preparation stage involves investing part of the funding not on Marketing, but shifting it to executing plans in the areas of, Statistical information, tourism master plan, tourism awareness program, customer service training, marketing, but mostly public relations and Cruise conversion program.
Based on the character of our ever evolving tourism industry it is advised to revisit on a monthly basis the proposed year plan and be able to adjust the actions as well as having the ability and approval for budget amendment.
What is the Tourist Office doing to diversify the SXM Economy/tourism-sector?
As part of the governing program and on the priority list of the Ministry of Ministry of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Traffic and Telecommunication (TEATT), diversifying our tourism sector is crucial for a more sustainable and balanced tourism industry on St. Maarten. This will bring benefits to stakeholders and the entire community direct, indirect or induced. The ministry of TEATT and the St. Maarten Tourism Bureau will target Sports Tourism, Eco Tourism, Culture Tourism and Community Based Tourism.
What was the effect of the passing of hurricane Irma on our Tourist product?
Irma was like no other hurricane ever. It completely wiped our tourism product out in 24 hours. It threw the destination into a war zone and disastrous situation. Hotels are destroyed and basically the entire tourism product is destroyed, with tourist scrambling to evacuate the island. At the same time, we showed resilience and the clean-up started on all levels in the community. From a disaster came an opportunity. Like the saying goes: “In every cloud there is silver lining”, and St. Maarten has now that opportunity to rebuild better stronger. We can create any future we would like by planning properly,’ as the director explains.
The 2030 Agenda and our economy
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with its 17 goals, captures ‘the Tourism’ mainly with SDG 8 on Decent work and Economic Growth and SDG 9 on Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure. The St. Maarten Tourist Office is within government designated to take the Tourism Industry to a next, sustainable level.
In our Sint Maarten Governing program 2018-2022 ‘Building a Sustainable Sint Maarten’ key priorities are mentioned, of which ‘Destination Revitalization’. What does this mean? ‘Sint Maarten has had a long history of being a leader in the Caribbean in the Tourism Industry. This success has been primarily due to the unique concept of being” two countries in one,” with over 103 different cultures, exquisite cuisine, and scenery. To be number one again, we cannot merely restore or expand the hotels and return to normal airport operation. The time has come for us to finalize the establishment of US pre-clearance at the PJIA, which will propel us well ahead of most other Caribbean destinations and solidify our position as a regional hub as well. Restoring full operation of Port Sint Maarten and the return of our hotels to full service, as well as the arrival and increase of airlifts to our destination are key priorities. These efforts will go a long way to restoring thousands of jobs that were previously lost due to the closure of hotels and limited operation of the Airport. Our government wants to focus on these three objectives, because these will create the economic boost the destination needs for it to be sustainable.’
At the end of the day, a sustainable Tourism Industry will generate not only income for our economy, but create jobs and a satisfied tourist, with the interest to keep coming back to its preferred destination.
St. Maarten’s Department of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (BAK) is the designated focal point for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 Agenda on St. Maarten. Ms. Drs. L. Morales, program manager at BAK can be contacted to be part of the SDGs process. You can reach her via government email firstname.lastname@example.org or per telephone number +1721-5271223. Mrs. May Ling can be contacted at email@example.com or per telephone +1721- 5490200 Ext. 111.
The governing program can be downloaded from the Sint Maarten government Website www.sintmaartengov.org