Opinion: Tourism marketing for St. Maarten

POSTED: 07/11/11 12:52 PM

What is the best way to put St. Maarten on the map as a tourist destination? The Grand Chancellor hotel in Christchurch, New-Zealand found a way to get some free publicity for the kiwis: they sent an invoice for hotel accommodation to a couple that had been locked into its room on the twenty-first floor during a heavy earthquake in February.

The elevator was out of commission, and the stairways had collapsed, making it impossible for the guests to leave. The couple received an invoice for close to $230, including a $25 charge for parking. Their car was stuck in the basement and could only be retrieved from the rubble two months later.

After the quake the hotel, the highest building in Christchurch, was one and a half meter out of whack. It is scheduled to be demolished but as long as that does not happen, the travel insurance refused to pay the couple for its lost luggage. The suitcases have a content valued at close to $11,500. They have not been stolen or destroyed but they are still sitting in the room on the twenty-first floor. Authorities have closed down the property and nobody is allowed to enter.

The hotel management in the meantime let it be known that the invoice is a mistake. The computerized accounting system of the chain the Grand Chancellor belongs to had not taken the earthquake into account.

In St. Maarten we have a different way of making the news: we let timeshare properties slam unsuspecting customers with outrageous maintenance fees, and then threaten to close down the place if the clients don’t pony up.

A shame we don’t have more earthquakes here because the story from New Zealand is somehow a bit endearing. We started wondering for instance about the contents of those suitcases. Who travels with so much value packed in between lingerie and tee shirts?


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