St. Martin addresses improvement areas By Kimberly Scholz / May 25, 2001 Share 1 -- NEW YORK -- The next year will be a busy one in St. Martin, where hotel improvements, the upcoming conversion to the euro and family travel are on the front burner, according to Bernadette Davis, director of tourism for St. Martin. "The market is telling us that family travel is very important -- and we will adapt to that," Davis said.St. Martin already has activities that appeal to families, such as the Butterfly Farm, as well as upwards of 30 beaches offering an array of water-sports options.However, the island's hotels are lacking specific programs to attract families, Davis said."Hotels need to look at the family market more seriously and put more activities in place -- not just a pool," she stressed.There are a few properties that have "gone above and beyond" what other properties are doing, according to Davis, including Le Meridien L'Habitation Le Domaine, La Samanna and Le Flamboyant.For instance, Le Meridien offers the Pingouin Club for children ages 4 through 12.The program is free to guests and features arts and crafts, swimming and golf lessons and beach excursions.Also in the pipeline for the island is a new law providing open funding for hotel improvements over the next six years.Individual hotels will need to file for the money on their own; funding will provide up to $3,000 per room for improvements.With only three major hotel chains on the island -- Le Meridien; Orient-Express, with La Samanna, and Accor, with Mercure Simson Beach Coralia -- Davis said she hopes the smaller hotels will take advantage of the funding and do some much needed work.Also affecting the island is the changeover to the euro as its official currency, which will occur on Jan. 1, 2002."We will have to accept [the euro], integrate it and make it part of our everyday living," Davis said.From a U.S. visitor's perspective, Davis said she does not think the euro conversion will be a major concern as the U.S. dollar will continue to be widely accepted around the island.If anything, she said, the euro conversion will stabilize the economy and make the island more of a draw to its more than 70% repeat visitors."What makes people come to St. Martin again and again? It is the uniqueness of the island," Davis said."Where else can you go in a 10-minute drive and find so unique an experience with the French and Dutch cultures? You feel like you've traveled more than you have."