PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten -- The smaller islands of the northeastern
Caribbean, often overshadowed by their larger neighbors, took the
initiative this spring to increase their visibility.
The result was the first St. Maarten/St. Martin Annual Regional
Tradeshow (Smart), held at Maho Beach Resort & Casino on St.
The effort was spearheaded by the St. Maarten Hospitality and
Trade Association (SMHTA) and the tourism offices of St. Maarten
and St. Martin. Liesa Euton-Marinaro, who previously served as
SMHTA president, chaired the event.
She said Smart's objectives were to showcase the region and
bring together area tourism and industry officials to unite the
smaller islands behind a joint marketing effort. Apparently, the
first Smart attempt did just that.
Theo Heyliger, St. Maarten minister of tourism, said the show
generated exposure for those islands and hotels "that lack the
budgets and resources to regularly attend the Caribbean Hotel
Association's annual Marketplace.
"As Smart evolves, it will allow small Caribbean properties a
presence in the trade show arena," Heyliger said. "Our goal is to
become the Caribbean's premier regional trade show, with CHA's
Marketplace as our model for success."
Smart brought together representatives from 13 islands who met
with more than 150 suppliers, tour operators, meeting planners and
Regina LaBega, director of tourism for St. Maarten, said many
attendees were first-time visitors to the dual-nation
The presence of U.S. and Canadian agents was key to the success of
the first Smart show, LaBega said. "Travel agents are at the center
of our efforts to sell our destination," she said.
Smart dovetailed nicely with St. Maarten's Fourth Night Free
program and a $1 million ad campaign launched earlier this
Both promotions were aimed at the U.S. market and were bolstered
by concentrated sales efforts in California and the Pacific
Northwest -- two of St. Maarten's fastest-growing regions.
"The promotions, combined with Smart, stimulated top-of-mind
awareness about the region," LaBega said.
Smart was held at the 600-room Maho Beach Resort & Casino,
giving that property an opportunity to tout its recent $23 million
Maho closed its doors in November 1998, following extensive
damage from Hurricane Lenny. The property reopened in April 2001
with 11,000 square feet of new meetings space.
"Finally, we are seeing a turnaround in business, helped in
large part by Smart and by Maho's new facilities," said Bernard
Hunt, the resort's director of marketing.
Smart will be held in 2003 at Le Meridien L'Habitation Le
Domaine on St. Martin, but the dates have not been finalized.
Room key: Maho Beach Resort & Casino
Address: Box 834, Maho Bay, St. Maarten,
Phone: (800) 223-0757; (599) 545-2115
Fax: (599) 545-3180
Sample rates: From $165 per room, double, in low
season; from $225 in high season.
Location: Beachfront resort on the Dutch side of
Room count: 600.
Raves: Location, location, location. Great beach;
huge casino; lots of shops.
Rants: No in-room irons; no room service. So close
to the airport that the sign on the beach that warns of low-flying
aircraft is no joke. It's fascinating the first time to see a jumbo
jet touch down or take off seemingly within splashing distance of
your beach blanket. After that, it's intrusive.
Islands participating in Smart
• St. Kitts