PHILIPSBURG—On September 7th, 2017 the outlook as a nation was bleak. Hurricane Irma ravaged our beautiful island in the sun, yet through the strength and will of our people, St. Maarten now has more than just a glimmer of hope, “we are on track to re-establish our dominance as the preferred tourism destination in the Caribbean, taking full advantage of the opportunity to rebrand and improve our product.”
Those were the words of Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Traffic & Telecommunication (TEATT), to mark the celebration of Caribbean Tourism Day (CTD). Celebrated annually under the theme “One Sea, One Voice, One Caribbean,” CTD seeks to create greater tourism awareness among Caribbean citizens.
Work continues annually to increase tourism awareness by enhancing the profile of the Caribbean tourism sector in the marketplace and through positive international media coverage of the Caribbean.
“This year I wish to highlight the character and strength of the people of St. Maarten, who have persevered through perhaps the most difficult challenge many of us would face throughout our entire lives,” said Johnson. “While we work to ensure infrastructural developments remain on target and the return of all major and regional carriers to our destination, in pre-Irma numbers, it is our people who will be the main ingredient in our rebranding efforts as a tourism destination,” said Johnson.
He said his ministry continues to work diligently to ensure cruise lines return with the numbers rapidly exceeding the 3 million passenger mark. Hotel operators continue working tirelessly to get their resorts back on track, and this shows our collective determination to persevere in the face of great odds.
“While we are nowhere near where we need to be as a country, we have every reason to be proud of where we are today,” said Johnson.
For many years, St. Maarten has been a unique vacation destination with its French counterparts inhabiting the entire coast which faces Anguilla and providing a fresh Caribbean flavour of fun in the sea, sand and sun. They complement the audacious Dutch side on the south coast that continues to be the entertainment mecca of the Caribbean, with a variety of places to see and things for couples and families to do.
“Even though both sides are governed independently, we work well with each other and the islands in the region. We provide a stable hub service for travel through the region, which we hope to expand on at Airport SXM, and we are also a regional transhipment point for many islands whose goods are transported through Port SXM to its final destination.”
“Naturally, the mix of nationalities that makes up our citizenry who share the same landmass, makes us one of the most unique destinations in the world,” said Johnson.
No doubt, these beautiful features will be on the minds of many who have accepted our invitation to return to St. Maarten, and every individual on St. Maarten must ensure that they are ready to welcome our guests.
Minister Johnson said, “This tourism season, which incidentally commences in the month in which we celebrate Tourism, will perhaps be one of the most important seasons for St. Maarten as we strive to build a sustainable destination.”
He said, “Our actions over the past year has shown, not just our resilience but our determination not to be reduced to less than what we were valued at, as a Caribbean tourism destination. I, therefore, challenge every citizen to reach deep within themselves, and search for that extra St. Maarten flavoured ounce of enthusiasm and utilise this energy to propel us through to the end of a successful 2018 – 2019 tourism season.
Join me in thanking the many who have wished us well and have contributed over the past year to our rebuilding efforts and in extending a warm welcome to our shores and a hearty thank you to all of our visitors today and in the future.
“Thank you for trusting us with your vacation as we are acutely aware of the many options you have globally. Your confidence in our destination is what drives us to continuously strive to exceed your expectation of excellence in service, hospitality and quality products.”
Your confidence shown encourages us to continue to work towards ensuring the completion of developments such as the reopening of the main terminal of Airport SXM to make travel hassle-free. We will continue to work diligently to finalize US Pre-Clearance, and we will continue to work with our industry partners throughout the world including our airline partners to show that St. Maarten is indeed open and ready for to welcome its guests back home.