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%
"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."