Opinion: Port de Plaisance

POSTED: 02/7/12 3:55 PM

The complaints filed by Elyena Foster-Miremonde and her son Julian Lampert about their experiences at Port de Plaisance are another dent in St. Maarten’s reputation as the destination of choice in the Caribbean.

That mother and son have a reputation of their own in the arts community makes the story even more prominent; Elyena Foster studied music at the Moscow Conservatory, before moving to the United States. Her son Julian is an accomplished concert pianist and also a composer. In December he gave a recital at the Catholic Church in Marigot.

But while the music was fine, the accommodation at Port de Plaisance left a lot to be desired. So much so actually, that Foster wrote a lengthy complaints-letter to the resort in the beginning of January. Maybe the individual complaints are not all that serious, but combined they paint a picture of pure disaster. To make matters worse, the resort did not bother to respond to foster’s letter.

To say that Port de Plaisance has a reputation of sorts is an understatement. The travelers web site TripAdvisor contains quite some reviews about the resort and the overwhelming majority of them are negative. One review recounts how a guest was practically robbed of a $100-bill at the casino, when the cashier told him that it was counterfeit. After a lengthy process that involved several policemen, an unidentified fraud officer and two banks, the conclusion was that there was nothing wrong with the banknote. Also in this case, the guest did not receive any apologies, or any reaction at all from the resort.

All this must lead to the conclusion that there is a pattern – one of the kind that gives the island a bad name. The Port de Plaisance story comes on the heels of countless stories about problems at several timeshare resorts.

The responsibility for everything that goes wrong in the private sector rests obviously with private companies, but it cannot escape the government’s attention that all these negative stories also have a negative impact on the island’s economy.

Yet we hear nothing from our Minister of Economic Affairs and Tourism. The hospitality and trade association SHTA and the timeshare association SMTA also remain silent. This ostrich policy is not doing anybody any good: when a house is on fire, you’d think that sooner or later at least somebody is going to call the fire brigade.

It is not difficult to predict what will happen when nobody makes that call. Our tourism industry – the only real cash cow the island has –seems to rely on the least-said-soonest-mended philosophy. In the long run this will kill the whole industry, and thereby destroy the local economy. The time to act was yesterday, but since that moment is gone, today is still an option.

So who will take the initiative to repair the damage and to prevent more accidents?

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