Cultural links and industry challenges highlighted at tourism festival

POSTED: 09/28/11 12:05 PM

Meyers: “We must not look at our diversity as a liability”

St. Maarten – The importance of tourism to the nation was stressed at Tuesday’s World Tourism Day celebration at the Great Bay Beach Promenade. The theme for the event, which was heavy on cultural performances, is Tourism linking cultures.

“It is important that we are linking cultures. St. Maarten is a diverse island in the Caribbean and we must not look at our diversity as a liability. Our diversity is an asset and we must use it to our benefit so as we move to become a major player in the Caribbean and the world, we must embrace all of those who have made St. Maarten their home,” Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation and Telecommunication Franklin Meyers said.

Jr. Tourism Minister Carla Vlaun echoed that sentiment pointing that St. Maarten unifies 100 cultures and nationalities in a single business.

“I urge the youth to stop turning our backs on diversit. We become too caught up in stereotyping, resulting in the clashing of cultures. Advancement comes with acceptance of one another and change. We are all one people, but we are not all the same, but it is the differences we have that create the vibrant mixture of cultures that we have on the island. We must learn from each other’s cultures and adapting the best of each to keep the diversity our parents have already created for,” Vlaun said.

State of the industry

Meyers also used Tuesday’s event to say that the country’s tourism sector remains challenged and in a downward spiral because of competition from its neighbors in the region and the fact that it must give a number one product despite the hard economic times.

“The road ahead of us is a hard road, but I’m here to remind you tonight, that never in the history of mankind, has man achieved greatness, when it was easy. We’ve always been able to accomplish great things when our resolve has been tested in the most difficult times. So I am sure St. Maarten and the rest of the world will come out this economic spiral that we’re in and once again we can enjoy the good days,” Meyers said.

“It is the business of the government workers. It is the business of every person, every inhabitant of St. Maarten and that is why we must treat tourism as a nest egg. Unless we’re able, one of these days, to establish a sustainable industry that will provide food, housing and jobs and money for us, the people in St. Maarten, we have to treat tourism as our nest egg. St. Maarten needs you, your country needs you, tourism needs you,” the minister added later.

Education

Vlaun picked up on the line that everyone must participate in making tourism a success and called for procedures to be put in place to ensure the industry’s growth and advancement.

“We youngsters are coaxed into the idea of returning to St. Maarten once we finish our studies. We should thus be taught hospitality in our secondary school curriculums because, in view of our return to the island, hospitality will play a major role in our careers. Whether we are dealing with tourism directly or indirectly, there will be countless moments where we will find ourselves face to face with the industry and its people. It is hospitable gestures and fond memories of our island’s people that will keep tourists coming back year after year,” Vlaun said.

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