Opinion: Claret Connor writes: Keep it simplePOSTED: 02/23/16 7:42 PM
After reading the editorial in one of the local newspaper over the weekend regarding the ongoing outstanding to organizers of two of the largest annual events on the island (the regatta and carnival – ed.), leaves me with the conclusion that government can no longer afford to conduct business as usual and at the same time expect different outcomes. Government as one of the main partners in marketing the country should explore how it can operate outside what has become the norm for these particular events.
As former Minister of Tourism, I initiated an approach aimed at addressing this ongoing issue from a pragmatic perspective. This approach would have ensured that the organizers would not be left in a financial predicament year after year. Considering that government’s subsidy is to fund the marketing promotional activities of these events, my approach was to apply the K.I.S.S. method (Keep It Simple, Stupid – ed.). This method would ensure that the activities surrounding the events would remain straightforward and measurable.
This approach was also well received from the two organizations as it would not require the cumbersome process of having to supply bureaucratic reporting such as audited financials. Rather, this approach would allow government the opportunity to manage its cash flow and disbursements. In addition, I recommended to the organizers that in the spirit of true and real public private partnership, the funding allocated to the events were to be earmarked to the Tourist Bureau. The Tourist Bureau would be charged with the execution of the organization’s annual marketing plans for the events.
If time had permitted, a committee would have been installed comprising of members of the ministries and/or departments such as Culture, Finance, Tourism, and SCDF and Heineken Regatta organizers. This committee would be spearheaded by the Minister of Tourism, as the person charged with the responsibility and financial accountability of the portfolio on behalf of the government and people of St. Maarten. For the sake of continuity, the committee would have been co-chaired by the Secretary General of the ministry as this position in the organization of government is the one that is consistent (as ministers come and go). Once established, the committee would meet quarterly to set up and put in motion the marketing plans for the events in advance. The meetings would have taken on the business model approach, which entailed measuring the ongoing progress of the marketing efforts; while adjusting the plans as needed.
I believe that this approach would have addressed the ongoing challenges and establish a more pragmatic oriented solution with measurable processes built in. In other words, the Tourist Bureau’s and our marketing representatives in the US, South America, the Caribbean and Europe would be able to focus on executing the marketing efforts for the events in the various markets. In addition, advertisements for these activities can be featured annually in exclusive publications that cater to the niche markets.
Contrary to what is often publicly spoken, our good professional civil servants at the Tourist Bureau and those who represent us abroad are dedicated and desire support and leadership that would aid them to maximize their abilities in promoting St. Maarten and all that we offer to our visitors. In addition to the events, our marketing efforts can include other aspects of St. Maarten that the visitors can take advantage of during their visit for a given event. This will create opportunity for government to better monitor spending patterns, control and manage its marketing cash as the funds would be spread over longer periods.
As it is now, government must issue funds once or twice a year in large amounts. As a result of the tardiness associated with disbursement of the funds earmarked for marketing of the events, its effectiveness seldom materializes and in the end there is little positive return on our marketing investment.