St. Maarten Tourism information system ready to go by month’s end

POSTED: 01/10/12 3:13 PM

New immigration cards already in use

St. Maarten – Serious floods in Thailand back in November of last year, have caused a delay in the installation of immigration card scanners at Princess Juliana International Airport, TSIS project manager Martin Meijerink told this newspaper yesterday. But TSIS, the long awaited Tourism Statistical Information System, is ready to go when the scanners arrive by the end of this month.

The monsoon floods that hit Thailand hard in October and November of last year, damaged hard disk drive production facilities of companies like Western Digital, Toshiba and Seagate Technology hard. Thailand is the second largest producer of hard disk drives in the world after China. The floods caused a drop in production of 28 percent in the last quarter, a research firm reported last year. As a result, Indusa Global, the company that built the scanners for St. Maarten did not meet its scheduled December 15 target date. Indusa started as a boutique software company in 1995; the South Carolina-based company has offices in its home state and in Georgia, as well as in the United Kingdom and South Africa. Idusa also has data processing centers in India and the Bahamas and a software development facility in Jamaica. The company employs 200 people.

However, Meijerink said, immigration is already working with the new immigration cards, and the scanners will arrive towards the end of the month. “From thereon, it will take about three months before the first trend-information becomes available,” he said.

The new immigration cards depart from the old design. It comes now in the form of a booklet. Two pages are for information travelers have to supply by law – like name, date of birth, passport number and country of birth. The departure part of the card gives visitors the opportunity to report their experiences with the airport, their accommodation, food services, beaches and even feelings of personal safety.

The old departure card did not contain such questions and because there was no computer system to handle the information nothing would have been done with it anyway. With the TSIS immigration card, all this will change, because the information is scanned into a database.

The scanners will be housed in a stainless steel column that will be placed at the immigration booths. Travelers simply scan their card into it and – for arrivals – the information immediately pops up on the computer screen of the immigration officer. Information from departing travelers will be scanned into a database, from which the system is able to generate trend information.

Travelers will also be able to download the immigration card when they book their trip to St. Maarten. The printout contains a barcode linked to the personal information.

“We expect that at least 80 percent of all travelers will fill out the card correctly,” Meijerink said. “The other 20 percent will be difficult or impossible to read, or will contain incorrect information.”

Meijerink said that TSIS will over time contain all existing house addresses in St. Maarten. There are also plans to create a French-language immigration card and to enter French-side addresses into TSIS as well.

St. Maarten invested $1.1 million in TSIS. Over time it will become an invaluable marketing tool for the tourism industry but also for decision makers.

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