PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — Delivering on his promise to hit the ground running, the new Minister of Tourism Economic Affairs, Traffic & Telecommunications (TEATT), Stuart Johnson has made his first of several planned hotel visits starting with the Oyster Bay Beach Resort.
Minister Johnson visited the Resort on Tuesday this week accompanied by his Senior Policy Advisor, Regina Labega to get an update from the hotel’s management team on progress being made to restore their operations. Oyster Bay Beach Resort is one of several hotels on the island that was devastated by hurricanes Irma and Maria in September 2017.
The minister and Labega met Director of Operations/Human Resources Mirugia Brown for and General Manager Ricardo Perez of the Oyster Bay Beach Resort.
The meeting was an opportunity for Minister Johnson also become acquainted with the hotelier and gave both parties the opportunity to highlight their aspirations for the Sint Maarten tourism industry. During the meeting with the hotel’s management Minister Johnson took the opportunity to highlight the significant objectives of his ministry over the coming months which include reconstruction at the Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA) and improvements in Philipsburg to make it attractive for visitors.
The management team was very forthcoming as they briefed the minister about their achievements and some of their challenges. Besides the construction work to bring the hotel fully back online the management team told the minister, they were also battling the Sargassum which made it difficult for hotel guests to enjoy the beach. They also expressed interest in having their staff participate in the Hospitality First Training & Education Program presently being held at NIPA, and said they hoped to see some activities designed to enhance the Cruise and Stay Over visitor experience creatively and culturally.
Following the meeting, Minister Johnson said he looks forward to working with Oyster Bay Beach Resort and other hotels to improve the overall tourism product. He said the destination revitalization plans would require collaboration with all stakeholders. According to Minister Johnson, the partnership will not end on Dutch Sint Maarten but will include tourism partners on Sint Martin. He said, “The combination of efforts to promote the destination will yield positive results for the island and its people, which is the ultimate goal. However, we must prepare ourselves to welcome our guests, and one way of doing this is to clean-up the island.” Minister Johnson hopes to discuss ways of collaborating on clean-up campaigns with Sint Marten when they meet to discuss finalizing the Tourism Memorandum of Understanding.
Johnson said, “It is simply unacceptable for us to have wrecked ships on display nine months after the hurricane and especially given that we are again in a hurricane season. Some of the wreckage are the first things our visitors notice when they leave the Airport, and we must take urgent measures to correct this in the interest of improving our tourism product.”
As part of the minister’s objectives for tourism redevelopment in the aftermath of the worst Atlantic hurricane in history, he intends to build ties with all hoteliers large and small quickly, to understand their needs and provide assistance where possible, to get them fully operational. Minister told the Oyster Bay Beach Resort’s management team of his open-door policy and said he looked forward to working with the hoteliers on issues of interests.