S.H.T.A has no desire to control Tourism Authority

POSTED: 05/25/11 1:27 PM

“Balance is needed”

St. Maarten – The St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (S.H.T.A) has stressed their commitment to public/private sector partnership on the Tourism Authority because of recent statements by Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation and Telecommunications Franklin Meyers. Speaking on Sunday’s For the Record with Eddie Williams on Radio Soualiga 99.9 Choice F.M. Meyers said finding a structure that allows government to give the Tourism Authority its financing but retain guidance over its work is the key factor in finalizing the organization’s setup.
“Recent comments in the media give the impression that private sector wants to control the tourism department/ Ministry; this is simply not true. The SHTA has always been an advocate of public-private partnership. As a matter of fact, when the Ministry proposed a Tourism Authority consisting of purely private sector representatives, the SHTA commented that Government’s presence is critical for this structure to operate effectively,” the body stated in a release on Monday.
Several structures have been put on the table, but Meyers said the government was studying the implications of each one with the focus on avoiding placing the island’s only economic pillar in the hands of a private organization where the government has no say. One option is setting up the authority as a government owned company. The problem with that option is that government would be subject to the arm’s length that must be taken under the rules of Corporate Governance. A foundation was also considered but the problem there is that every expense above 150, 000 has to be reviewed by the Council of Ministers, thereby bogging efforts down in the same procedure that departments face.
“We want to create a body that can act quickly, but still find the right mix that allows government to have some say over the direction. We believe that handing the island’s only economic pillar to a private institution is a dangerous thing and the behavior of some of the organizations lately makes me even more worried,” Meyers said.
“The SHTA agrees that balance is needed and believes that both government and the private sector have roles to play in the success of the destination; Government needs to generate interest and the private sector needs to convert this interest into revenue, which goes back into government’s coffers,” the S.H.T.A. said.
The authority’s financing will come from the Room Tax that hotels pay to the government. This has created a further complication as the government must regulate how that money will be handed over.
The S.H.T.A. also feels that the process of establishing the Tourism Authority has been too lengthy (+/- 10 years) considering that every other island in the region has either already moved to a Tourism Authority structure or is in the process of moving towards this structure. They believe that should give sufficient examples of structures that can be used.

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