St. Maarten, Anguilla seek functional cooperation

POSTED: 05/18/11 12:36 PM

GREAT BAY – St. Maarten and Anguilla have agreed to what Chief Minister Hubert Hughes calls a “functional cooperation” between the two islands similar to the kind of cooperation that exists between the Scandinavian countries. The agreement was brokered at a meeting held in Anguilla on Friday, May 13, between a high-powered St. Maarten delegation led by the Vice Prime Minister Theodore Heyliger that included the Minister of Justice, Roland Duncan. Hughes used the talks to stress the long-standing relationship between the two islands and the strong family ties that bind them together.

“These are indeed reasons for us to have a stronger and more structural relationship. There are many areas in which we can make our cooperation more functional and meaningful,” he added, pointing to the Princess Juliana International Airport as a sub-regional hub, the possibility of joint marketing activities and the Tourism Statistical Information System (TSIS) among others,” Heyliger said as he concurred.

The St. Maarten delegation, also comprised Angelique Roumou who represented Minister of Tourism Franklin Meyers, Director of Tourism Regina Labega and officials of the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau and Peter Mazereeuw. The group gave a presentation on the TSIS to the Anguillan authorities and they were reportedly “very excited” about it.

“The TSIS offers the opportunity to obtain psychographic information about the visitors, which means not just their profiles but also their behaviour patterns,” Labega explained.

“There is an opportunity to build on the system and add Anguilla’s inventory to it, thus being able to provide valuable information about visitors going to Anguilla from St. Maarten; Information that would be important in attracting visitors by air as well as strengthening the hub facilities,” Labega added.

Providing residents and visitors of Anguilla “smoother entry” into St. Maarten was another major point of discussion at the talks. It was agreed that the process for visitors to Anguilla via St. Maarten needs to be simplified, and service needs to be improved. Parties agreed that St. Maarten needs to facilitate the immigration processing of in-transit visitors to Anguilla, which, according to the authorities of that island, sometimes takes visitors up to five hours waiting time. It was suggested that an in-transit line and an information desk could hasten this process.

In reply Duncan mentioned the strategy of the immigration office at the Simpson Bay Bridge staying open late to accommodate visitors heading for Anguilla via St. Maarten. He also revealed that the immigration process is already being worked on to allow for example, Guyanese who are legal residents of Anguilla to travel to St. Maarten to shop since St. Maarten is viewed as a shopping mall for Anguilla residents.

Another area of cooperation that was discussed was cooperative marketing, in particular a $90, 000 dollar joint venture between St. Maarten and COPA airlines to attract visitors from South America. Anguilla has also demonstrated initial interest in cooperating with WestJet and Jet Blue from Puerto Rico in view of the loss of the American Eagle flight. The Anguillans have requested that the increase of flights by Jet Blue should take the transfer in and out of Anguilla into consideration.

The Anguillan government and private sector have also indicated their commitment to attending the 10th anniversary of the St. Maarten Annual Regional Trade Show (SMART). They view the event as an opportunity for Anguilla to learn first-hand about the TSIS system and how it can enhance their individual products, Anguilla and the sub-region in general.

“I am very happy at the outcome of the meeting,” stated Vice Prime Minister Theo Heyliger. “Although we met on Friday the 13th, there was nothing scary or superstitious about the talks,” he mused, adding that these were overdue and would be structured into a periodic consultation between the governments of these islands.

Heyliger had led a Sint Maarten delegation to St. Barths on a similar mission a week earlier and explained that these meetings formed part of government policy to establish a closer working relationship with our immediate neighbors which would be beneficial to all parties.

The Anguillan authorities applauded the initiative taken by Sint Maarten and expressed confidence that it would yield concrete positive results for both parties.

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