Reader’s Letter: Summer Tourism: A new St. Maarten mindset

POSTED: 06/17/11 2:26 PM

Dear Editor,

With the tourist high season behind us and the start of the low season before us, some resorts and other businesses are offering summer specials to attract visitors to the island. St. Maarten Cultural, Music and Entertainment Development Foundation organized a music and food festival called Boardwalk Fest on June 3. It will be held on the last Friday of each month from June through October.  This event caters not only to residents but visitors as well.

The summer months, or what we also call the low season, are a challenging period for the island with fewer visitors calling upon our shores. Therefore, a concerted effort is needed to bring more visitors to the destination for the summer months, from June through August. September is normally a month that businesses use to carry out repairs, do a little sprucing up in preparation for the upcoming high season.  It is also considered the busiest month of the hurricane season.

A new St. Maarten mindset is needed in order to jumpstart the economy during the low season.  Various stakeholders and promoters need to come together and get the ball rolling.  Deliberate, put ideas on the table, and look at funding aspects/sources, set-up a ‘St. Maarten Summer Splash’ schedule, put in place an organizational structure that would organize events and do what has to be done.  Utilize the Sint Maarten/Tallahassee sister-city relationship that has been in existence for more than 10-years. As a country, we cannot afford to wait on somebody.

The Sint Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA) made a presentation to Parliament about the challenges being faced by the economy. According to media reports, the SHTA attributed the economic difficulties being experienced by the country as self-inflicted and stressed they will only continue to grow should government not work together with the private sector partners like SHTA to address social ills and properly promote the destination.

Do not let the challenges being faced by St. Maarten, but also by many other countries around the region, deter one from coming together and considering what can be done to continue to promote the destination, especially during the summer months.

The global tourism industry is worth US$6 trillion globally and employs 258 million people, according to information that was released at the World Travel and Tourism Summit in Las Vegas. Travel and tourism has grown by an average of four per cent each year since the 1970s, with the exception of sharp recessions triggered by war, terrorism and economic slowdowns.

At the summit, a presentation entitled, ‘A New Global Mindset,’ postulates that as economic growth picks up in 2011, there would be an ‘explosive shift’ from traditional Western markets to emerging markets such as Brazil, Russia, India and China.  Attendees to this session discussed how to deal with this potential marketing shift which included understanding investment and the challenges facing developers, investors and approval processes plus sustainable tourism growth.

There are trends and developments taking place that we have no control over. What we do have control over and we should make every effort to do is address the challenges by working together and moving things forward, which, in the end, benefits the destination and the hardworking people in the tourism sector.

We must start looking from within and moving beyond that by developing a new mindset of how we deal with challenges and attracting more business to the country. Perception is, wait and see what will happen for the next season. Let’s change that mindset.

Roddy Heyliger

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