Launch of St. Maarten’s tourism information system delayed until December

POSTED: 09/20/11 11:57 AM

St. Maarten – The Tourism Statistic Information System TSIS will go live before December 15, project manager Martin Meijerink told this newspaper yesterday. In May, during a presentation at the St. Maarten Annual Regional Trade Show, Meijerink projected a launch in September; the delay is due to illness of a key team member.
“Everything is looking good but we will not be able to launch in September,” Meijerink said. “Before the end of the year the traditional landing cards will be replaced and the scanners at the airport will be installed. Let me be precise: this will happen before December 15.”
When TSIS is operational it will grow into the most important marketing tool for the island’s tourism industry. The government has invested $1.1 million in the system.
The traditional immigration card will be replaced by a card that has space for promotional information about local events. Arrivals do not have to fill in their name and other personal information anymore, because this will be retrieved from their passports. Instead, they are asked to provide information about where they are going to stay. On a separate departure card, they are asked questions about their experience with St. Maarten.
It will take about half a year for TSIS to be filled with visitor information that can be used to fine-tune marketing efforts and also to address problems visitors experience on the island. Visitors will be able to generate an electronic arrival card before their departure to St. Maarten.
Upon arrival, the visitor places the card on a scanner that is stationed a couple of meters before the immigration checkpoint. The scan takes 0.25 seconds and sends information directly to the screen at the immigration officer’s desk.
According to Meijerink, this procedure will lead to shorter lines at immigration. The government will order 17 scanners and keep a couple of them in reserve as back up, in case a machine fails. The secure database that will contain the information TSIS generates will be physically housed in St. Maarten, with a backup in the United States. That backup is necessary, because the information in the system will become extremely valuable to decision makers and also to the private sector.
The data in TSIS will be combined with demographic and psychographic information from external databases. Visitor profiles will be enriched with behavioral characteristics. This will make it possible for instance to target specific vacationers with specific actions. The system will be able to identify all visitors who have expressed interest in certain activities, like diving.
The private sector will be able to use TSIS for this purpose for a fee, though the information in the system – like email-addresses – will not be made available to third parties. The marketing campaigns will therefore flow though the system’s administrator.

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