Chamber creates new loan facility for small propertiesPOSTED: 06/15/12 12:40 PM
GREAT BAY-The St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce and Industry signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Postal Savings Bank (PSB) on Thursday, paving the way for small hotels and guest houses to benefit from affordable loans to upgrade their properties. Executive Director of the Chamber Claret Connor said that several financial institutions were approached before Postal Savings Bank expressed its willingness to come on board as a socially oriented institution.
Overjoyed by the progress made by the Chamber in a short space of time to reach to an agreement, Eric Fortuno, on behalf of the property owners, said “this is a dream come through. This is a project that was in the pipelines a long time. It is an initiative that we welcome because the industry in its totality is in trouble with major hotel chains now tapping into Caribbean travelers. You have come and rescued us.”
Postal Savings Bank’s Chief Executive Officer Daniel Hodge said that his institution is committed to playing an important role in the development of St. Maarten. He however noted that “it is not only a matter of having a loan at the disposal of the small hotels sector but it is a total package, we want to upgrade and develop not only with infrastructure.”
That total package that Hodge speaks of will include training and educational initiatives to which the small hotels and guest houses must subscribe when seeking loans.
The entire agreement forms part of a pilot project that the Chamber embarked on to increase competitiveness in the hospitality sector and assist small hotels and guest houses in improving their products and services.
The memorandum of understanding makes clear that the different terms and conditions of the loan facility cannot be applied outside of the package of the pilot program and that the small hotels and guest houses sector need to become more organized, individually and collectively.
Postal Savings Bank has been around for more than 100 years and was operating under the name of Postpaarbank. As of January, it started operating under a commercial banking license but still holds its social responsibility dear, Hodge noted.
“Small businesses and guest houses contribute substantially to the economy by offering employment or services to the St.Maarten community. We expect to have everything finalized way before the high season starts.”
Vice President of the Chamber’s board Ludwig Quenniche explained that the signing of the memorandum of understanding was just the beginning of the process.
“This is a whole process, an entire package, getting the loan by itself is not the end of the process. You cannot give money to small properties without assisting them with the entire logistics. The package will be further developed to look at how to sustain and further develop the small properties on the island…provide training services and assistance in marketing.”
Work on the final agreement and framework package for the pilot project will start on Monday. It is being overseen by a special committee headed by Jose Lake Jr. and Tamara Leonard.
“I was proud to be a part of the process.”
Connor revealed that 14 properties were represented at the meeting and despite the fact that it is a collective approach; the bank will ensure that each property is handled individually. He expressed the hope that the project and process would be duplicated for other sectors based on the solid example his agency has made.
The first meeting between the chamber and the Postal Savings Bank took place on May 31 in Curacao. A follow up meeting was held here on Wednesday in the presence of a large group of small hotels and guest houses owners. While there the bank indicated its intention to form the preliminary agreement to partner with the chamber on the pilot project, its execution hinges heavily on the loan agreement forming part of a complete package to be determined collectively.
President of the Chamber of Commerce Arthur Bute indicated that since the new board was installed, the chamber has been working on its tourism plan and upgrading all sectors of the economy. Thursday’s signing of the memorandum of understanding is a significant accomplishment for the team and the small hotels and guest houses that may be able to use the funds to make adjustments to their environment.
“It is the small little things that make a difference such as improving room service, providing internet and flat screen televisions. We have to start thinking as professionals and seek out other professionals as well,” Bute charged those gathered to witness the signing ceremony.