The partnership between Dutch and French
tourism officials on the binational Caribbean island of St.
Maarten/St. Martin is solid, although some logistics and strategies
still remain to be ironed out, according to the parties involved.
Everything is now
done jointly -- the promotion, advertising and marketing highlight
both sides of the island, said Alex Richards, tourism director, St.
His colleague and
counterpart for St. Maarten, Regina La Bega, agreed.
Its one island
with two international flavors, and thats the bonus were
highlighting, La Bega said. Our visitors can experience two
cultures, cuisines, heritage and customs on one island in the same
visit. We are unique in the Caribbean in that respect.
properties coming on line, including the Westin St. Maarten (the
former Dawn Beach resort) next February; the Radisson St. Martin,
formerly Le Meridien, in December; and several condominium and
villa projects, the island will offer more than 4,000 rooms in all
numbers for the first quarter remained fairly flat, according to La
Bega, the summer tourism promotion of Pay for 5, Stay for 7,
coupled with the annual SummerFest event held in the last week of
July, should boost the islands off-season numbers.
While La Bega
attributed the flat first-quarter visitor statistics to room rate
increases last winter and fewer rooms in the rental pool, both she
and Richards were pleased with the airlift picture.
Even during the
summer period, we have 28% more seats than we had last summer,
Richards said. And we are seeing a lot more intra-Caribbean travel
welcomed 1.4 million cruise ship passengers last year and expects
to match that figure this year.
to homeport the 170-passenger EasyCruiseOne on the island from
December to May, and will offer one-week cruises to neighboring
islands, but the schedule will call for the ship to arrive and
depart St.Maarten/St. Martin twice in seven days.
The ship will be
in port 15 hours each time, which will greatly benefit our shops
and restaurants, Richards said.
The U.S. passport
issue is a big concern, according to both directors. Even as Jan.
1, 2007 -- the deadline by which all U.S. citizens returning from
the Caribbean must have a valid passport to re-enter the U.S. --
looms closer, surveys indicate that high numbers of U.S. visitors
to the entire region, including St. Maarten/St. Martin, still do
not possess passports.
flyers at the airport and cruise terminal, weve posted reminders on
our Web site, and were working with our tour operator partners to
get the word out, Richards said. Still, we know that the message
regarding the deadline and its implications will not reach all our
visitors and potential visitors in time.
another recent controversy, La Bega said that the widely reported
gay-bashing incident against two U.S. cruise ship visitors last
month on the Dutch side of the island, was deplorable but was an
The attacker did
turn himself into the police, she said.
As a precaution,
however, a new police unit in Philipsburg now deals solely with
petty crimes and harassment.
We have a paid
police force and a volunteer unit, but all volunteers now are paid,
La Bega said. This is a pilot project in Philipsburg, where 20
officers on foot patrol cover the main tourist areas, day and
They act as a
presence, she added. If it works well, the program may be expanded
to other areas of the island.
In Marigot in St.
Martin, the number of gendarmes, as police officers are referred to
in French, also has increased.
To contact reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to [email protected].