No board, no employees, no director and zero funds: St. Maarten Tourism Authority still in limbo

POSTED: 08/6/15 6:55 PM


GREAT BAY – “The Sint Maarten Tourism Authority (STA) is essentially a foundation on paper at this point in time. It is without a board, any employees, director and zero funds,” the STA’s incomplete supervisory council said in a statement in answer to questions from this newspaper yesterday.

In December of last year, merely days before his departure, Tourism and Economic Affairs Minister Ted Richardson proudly announced that the groundwork for the STA was set out a long time ago. “We had to find a way to get it established and working, and this has been accomplished,” he said in a press statement on December 10 at what was presented as the STA’s “kick off meeting.”

The members elected Mark Mingo, the CEO of the Harbor Group of Companies, as its chairman and Keith Graham of the St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association as its vice-chairman.

Minister Richardson, airport director Regina Labega and Jim Rosen, of the St. Maarten Timeshare Association all spoke of “an historic day,” while Graham labeled the moment of the meeting as “an exceptional day.”

Ludwig Ouenniche, at the time the head of Minister Richardson’s cabinet, stated for the occasion that the establishment of the STA was “a high priority in the very beginning of the term of this cabinet” and said that the key stakeholders for the tourism sector now had “the experience and the vehicle to take us forward.”

After that day it became silent around the STA and its supervisory council has now explained why this is so. “The three persons on the supervisory council were announced with some fanfare at the formation of the STA foundation,” the council writes in its press statement. “All three, by means of this statement, wish to inform the public that the STA has yet to be activated.”

The St. Maarten Harbour Holding Company and the Princess Juliana International Airport Exploitation Company incorporated the foundation on August 19, 2014 at the office of notary Meredith Boekhoudt in the presence of Minister Richardson.

Appointing the remaining board members, hiring employees and a director and the funding are all “the responsibility of the government to provide as stipulated in the articles of incorporation,” the council said in its press statement.

Currently, only three of the five positions on the supervisory council have been filled. The airport, the SHTA and the SMTA are on board, according to the press statement. This suggests that Mark Mingo, whom was elected as chairman in December, has withdrawn from the position. “Vacancies are awaiting government action to fill the other two positions,” the three members of the supervisory council said in their statement.

The Harbor Group of Companies will have to appoint a replacement for Mingo. The minister of tourism and economic affairs should appoint the fifth member of the supervisory council.

The legal structure of the STA foundation was chosen by the previous Council of Ministers “as a temporary construction that would allow funds from the government’s destination marketing and tourism product development budget to go to work in a more effective and timely manner,” the press statement reads.

“As a secondary point the STA foundation would allow private sector entities and government companies involved in tourism to contribute expertise in an advisory capacity only. “The intent was to create a public body by national ordinance as quickly as possible that would replace the foundation and allow for structural private sector contributions. This was expected to take 18 months to two years.”

The supervisory council is supposed to be assisted by an advisory committee. This committee should consists of representatives from the Chamber of Commerce, the Small Properties Association, the Marine Trade Association, an entity representing retailers (the Indian Merchants Association for as long as such an overall entity does not exist), the Dutch-side Tourist Bureau and the French-side Tourist Office.

The three members of the supervisory council released their statement about the state of affairs, “in light of the many comments pouring in from overseas travel partners about the lack of tourism promotion by St. Maarten.”

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