Caravanserai-owner spins result of meeting with Minister Richardson: SMTA outraged about Alegria press release

POSTED: 10/29/14 7:16 PM

GREAT BAY – The St. Maarten Timeshare association is outraged about a press release Caravanserai Resort owner Alegria sent to the media after a meeting with outgoing Tourism and Economic Affairs Minister Ted Richardson that was designed to address the concerns of timeshare owners. The SMTA’s first vice president Jim Rosen crumpled up the press release and threw it on our desk. “That is the reaction of the SMTA,” he said, adding, more formally, “The SMTA does not agree with the content of the press release.”

Rosen said that the SMTA will discuss a response in a board meeting. In the meantime, he said, “We do not agree with the cancellation of timeshare contracts.”

This is what the meeting with Minister Richardson was all about. After Alegria Real Estate bought the Caravanserai Resort at auction in August for $12 million, the new owners were quick to sending emails to timeshare owners announcing that their contracts had been canceled. That decision caused a lot of anger among timeshare owners who felt robbed of rights they paid dearly for.

While Minister Ted Richardson took the initiative for the meeting, he hardly ever spoke when it was in progress and he left without seeing the press release his policy advisor Ludwig Ouenniche released via MedPro to the media. Ray Sidhom, the director of credit card processor Evo Payments who bought the resort through Alegria Real Estate, was present in the meeting.

The contested press release is a draft written by Alegria Real Estate. Under the headline “Government achieves positive results for timeshare owners,” it created the impression that the participants in the meeting managed to solve all outstanding problems and that everybody was in agreement.

“The parties discussed that while the development plans for the new resort are still in the works, Alegria was gracious enough to extend and offer to the previous time share owners the use of the resort, its facilities and all its benefits exactly as they were accustomed to. Effectively, the timeshare owners will not notice any changes whatsoever in the use of the resort and its facilities for the same annual maintenance fees as previously paid,” the press release states in typical spin doctor style.

The release does not spend a word on the fact that Alegria cancelled all timeshare contracts and offered instead the use of a hotel room for the same charges – thereby robbing timeshare owners of their right to spend their week or weeks in another resort within the timeshare exchange system.

“Alegria and the SMTA have mutually agreed to work in close collaboration in providing timeshare owners with opportunities in multiple alternate timeshare facilities across St. Maarten once Alegria will commence with the development of its new resort,” the press release states.

This statement is now in question, because the SMTA has stated point blank that it does not agree with the content of the press release.

To add insult to the injury, the press release praises Minister Richardson for playing “a pivotal role in finding common ground between parties.” It also includes policy advisor Ludwig Ouenniche in its praises.

The release quotes Minister Richardson as saying, “This solution created a win-win for all parties involved,” while it does not mention any solution at all for the disgruntled timeshare owners.

“What I care the most about is people who invested in the island and will invest in the future, developers and timeshare owners alike,” Richardson is furthermore quoted as saying. “People who call Sint Maarten their second home should be able to continue enjoying our Friendly Island. I am glad that Alegria and the SMTA were able to come to a happy medium that is in the interest of our island and its economy and I am optimistic about the future developments in tourism and the economic growth generated thereby.”

That ministerial optimism does not sit well with the Timeshare Association. In the coming days the SMTA will prepare its vision on what really happened.



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