Reed Travel Features
MARIGOT -- Hassan Ahdab, the newly elected president of the
Association des Hotels de St. Martin (AHSM), said the group of 21
hotels is taking another look at its marketing efforts.
Ahdab, general manager of Le Meridien L'Habitation le Domaine,
succeeds Alain Jalat, the former manager of Le Flamboyant, who left
in May 1996.
Ahdab said the hotel association had been inactive for some time
and that 1995's Hurricane Luis gave the group a push to renew its
After he was elected at the end of December, the AHSM began work
on a joint marketing effort with the St. Martin Tourism Office,
devising a sales and marketing strategy for 1997 and 1998.
"We are looking at pricing, market segmentation, repositioning,
image, an action plan by market, trade shows and fairs," he
The French side of the island draws 40% of its travelers from
the U.S., he said, and 38% from Europe.
In the coming years, he said, the French side will focus more
effort on developing the U.S. market as well as South America.
To boost U.S. business, the association will take part in a
meeting this month with North American tour operators.
Part of that meeting will be devoted to developing a summertime
Ahdab said it was unclear if the promotion would mimic last
year's "pay-for-five, stay-for-seven" program, offered by Dutch
Ahdab said that because the French side has fewer hotels than
the Dutch side, it attracts less business from wholesalers and
major tour operators.
The hotel association is conducting its own research to
demonstrate to wholesalers that a greater number of U.S. visitors
vacation on the French side than airport arrival numbers
Tour operators, he said, cannot account for the number of
tourists who vacation in time-shares, which are independently sold
and lie mainly on the Dutch side.
Determining how much business is lost by wholesalers and tour
operators through time-share sales will allow the hotel association
to demonstrate the greater financial benefit to be derived from
selling their hotels.
Another issue confronting the hotel association is the question
of image, Ahdab said.
"We had an excellent image in the U.S. before the hurricane,
[relying mainly] on word of mouth and [agents'] trust of tour
operators," he said.
Because the reopening of several major hotels was delayed, other
properties suffered financial losses, although they opened soon
after the storm.
In the meantime, U.S. tour operators were telling agents and
sales people not to sell the island, and "shouting this loud
definitely effected the public's perception" long after many hotels
were up and running, Ahdab said.
Currently, La Belle Creole and the former Golden Tulip Saint
Martin Beach Resort are the only French properties still closed
since the storm. (See story below.)
In an effort to turn their image around, through a cooperative
effort with hotels on the Dutch side, the island hosted top-selling
travel agents last summer.
In addition, the St. Martin American Marketing Association
(SAMA) conducted many road shows and presentations for U.S. travel
agents in 1996.
As a result of these efforts, Ahdab said, "We believe that tour
operators and travel agents are confident that St. Martin is back
Nonetheless, U.S. promotions will continue this year.
"We have asked SAMA to work out their budget, and they are
looking for $124,000.
"With the help of the tourism office, we will support them with
fund raising or in some other way."
Despite the absence of the St. Maarten Tourism Office, which
withdrew from SAMA membership late last year, Ahdab said he expects
that SAMA will continue its U.S. promotional efforts in 1997 and