Opinion: In limbo

POSTED: 07/11/14 11:39 PM

The St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association has sounded the alarm over the St. Maarten Tourism Authority – and not without reason. For the past twenty years, successive governments have discussed this issue, and the result is zero – zip.

Now the SHTA poses the question whether the government ought to let go and give the initiative to the private sector. That sounds like a good idea, because private sector operators do not take twenty years for a decision. They make things happen.

There are serious concerns about the way the government deals with the promotion of the destination, not to mention the fact that a key player like the marine industry is apparently left out of the loop.

The impotent parliament has not made a single move during its first term to make something happen in this field. And what is the problem really?

The STA is not the only project that is kept in limbo. There is also TSIS – the Tourist Statistical Information System – that could have been up and running a year ago or longer, but the terminals are sitting idly at the airport where staff members wonder why the government is wasting money on projects that are going nowhere.

The country needs data – and therefore it needs TSIS. It needs a decisive approach to destination marketing – and therefore it needs the STA, instead of a scandal-ridden Tourist Bureau.

These initiatives could boost tourism, and therefore boost the economy, create jobs and make life in general for the average St. Maartener a tiny little bit better. Why is this not happening?

We do not have the answer at hand, but if we had to make a guess, we would say that there are too many egos involved – to the detriment of all those people who will soon be asked for their vote.

So indeed, let the private sector take on the challenge and kick that tourism authority in shape. The way it looks now, we have already lost the summer and it is unclear which initiatives are on the table to give a boost to the next high season. There is no use to call our Minister of Tourism and Economic Affairs to account, because he will be gone after the elections.

It is however too easy to throw all the blame at the minister – maybe it was that shadowy figure behind him that pulled all strings in the wrong direction. There is also a role for parliament in these matters, but this is either badly understood or grossly ignored. That does not become a bunch of well-paid elected politicians who are always so full of speaking about how they are taking care of the people’s business. Because the truth is, that most politicians are not doing this at all.

Remember? Intention + Action = Result

The Intention was (twenty years ago) to create a Tourism Authority. Since there is no result to speak of, the conclusion must be that our decision makers have failed to take the appropriate action. Or – also possible – they were lying and never intended to do what they said all those years ago.

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