Tourist Authority an TSIS remain elusive initiatives

POSTED: 08/2/13 4:26 PM

St. Maarten – Minister of Economic Affairs Ted Richardson has a full plate in front of him. Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams referred on Wednesday to the St. Maarten Tourist Authority as one of the issues that requires his immediate attention. “It is such an old matter,” the PM almost sighed. “Minister practically put their stamp on it, but it now has the full attention of Minister Richardson.

Two governments ago, in February 2012, Tourism Minister Franklin Meyers already disclosed the names of the seven candidates for the board of the Tourism Authority: Jim Rosen on behalf of the St. Maarten Timeshare Association, Lorraine Talmi on behalf of the St. Maarten Marine Trades Association, Emil Lee on behalf of the St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association, Mark Mingo on behalf of the St. Maarten Harbor Group of Companies, Tamara Leonard on behalf of the St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Khalifa Hickinson on behalf of the Princess Juliana International Airport and Wendy Wathey on behalf of the government. Wathey is a realtor by profession.

In August of that year, his successor Romeo Pantophlet announced in a meeting with the hospitality and trade association SHTA that the tourism authority would be in place by January 1, 2013. On the same date, the Tourist Statistical Information System TSIS would be fully operational.

The government has invested $1.1 million of Usona-funds in TSIS and implementing it back in January would have put an end to a delay of a full year. By now, TSIS is more than one-and-a-half year overdue.

Asked about TSIS, Prime Minister Wescot-Williams said on Wednesday: “If TSIS were operational, we would be celebrating at the airport now.”

“We have visited the Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA) and a Memorandum of Understanding is being worked out with the tourist office, the Justice Ministry and the airport,” Minister Pantophlet said about TSIS in August of last year. “We have agreed that the airport will own the infrastructure since it will be stationed there. We agreed that they would also manage the system.”

Project leader Jean James and Martin Meijerink, the project leader for IVB (Institutional Strengthening Administration) told this newspaper in April that former Justice Minister Roland Duncan frustrated the implementation of TSIS. The scanners and the software are at the airport, but between December 1, 2011, and October 1, 2012, TSIS scanned just 150 new immigration cards. “That could have been 400,000 or even 800,000,” Meijerink said at the time.

TSIS could function as an immigration system and a system to provide the statistical data needed to focus tourist marketing efforts, but Duncan did not trust the combination and feared that it was impossible to keep tourist and immigration data separate.

Duncan was not the only one to oppose TSIS. According to Meijerink, the immigration department refuses to use the new immigration cards that are tailor-made for the system and the tourist Bureau refuses to provide control data.

Meijerink made a first public presentation about TSIS at the St. Maarten Annual regional trade show (smart) in May 2011. At the time, it was thought possible to have the system operational in September of that year.

While St. Maarten does not use TSIS up to now, the country will soon be confronted with maintenance fees from  the German provider M-2 and the American provider Indusa. M-2 maintains the seventeen TSIS-scanners for 10,000 guilders per year, and Indusa intended to charge 650,000 guilders a year to maintain the software, but this charge was in April still a point of discussion.

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