Grisha Discusses Product Enhancement with SHTA Executive Board

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Grisha Heyliger-Marten, Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Traffic and Telecommunication (4th R), flanked by Executive Board members of the St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA), June 2024. 

 

GREAT BAY Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Traffic and Telecommunications, Grisha Heyliger-Marten met with the Executive Board of the St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA) on Friday, June 14, 2024.

During the meeting, part of the minister’s continued efforts to engage all stakeholders in her plans to revitalize the island’s economy, she outlined her primary goals, focusing on product enhancement and beautification efforts to improve St. Maarten’s tourism experience.

The minister emphasized the city’s Marketplace as the first significant project, now a designated area for marketers, set to improve both vendor and visitor experiences. 

The project is a collaboration under the Public-Private Initiative (PPI) with a cruise line, and aims to boost the local economy and tourism. 

Discussions are planned with the co-financier of the marketplace project following which more details will be provided to the public and all stakeholders, said the minister.

Regarding the beautification plans, Minister Heyliger-Marten highlighted initiatives like providing free Wi-Fi in town along with other smart city strategies. In response, the SHTA suggested charging stations and internet access for vendors, citing the Aruba model as exemplary.

According to SHTA, May 2024 showed positive trends in hotel and timeshare occupancy. It however stressed the need to focus on the summer period for sustained growth. The association further disclosed that 2016 was its benchmark year for Return on Investment (ROI), attributing success to a robust marketing campaign. 

The organization also called for increased marketing activities in the Puerto Rico market, especially with the Frontier flight launched recently.

The Executive Board of SHTA expressed concerns about communication with regards to the challenges GEBE is facing relative to stable and reliable power supply and stressed the need for proactive crisis management strategies in all the island’s source markets.

The minister emphasized that there is a robust crisis management strategy in place, with regular meetings to stay ahead of potential issues.

Other topics discussed included a request by SHTA for the association to be represented on the Socio-Economic Council (SER) in line with International Labour Organization (ILO) standards.

Similarly, enhancing public awareness and establishing a tourism curriculum for schools were identified as key initiatives that need to be pursued, along with the training of hotel workers, taxi drivers, and other front-line workers to improve service quality and the tourism experience.

Heyliger-Marten informed SHTA about the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) conference, which St. Maarten will host this October. The minister disclosed that she is setting up a Steering Committee to ensure coordination among SXM Airport, the harbor, immigration, and the tourist office.

In conclusion, Heyliger-Marten thanked the SHTA Executive Board for the valuable input and reaffirmed her commitment to keeping the organization informed and involved in ongoing projects.