PHILIPSBURG— Vice President of the Collectivity and President of the
St. Martin Tourist Office, Ms Valerie Damaseau, and Minister of Tourism,
Economic Affairs, Traffic & Telecommunication (TEATT), on Dutch St. Maarten
the Honourable Stuart Johnson, led a delegation of tourism specialists on an
island-wide assessment of the St. Maarten tourism product on Thursday December
The island-wide tour now puts substance to a Memorandum of
Understanding (MOU), which was signed a year ago as an agreement to market St.
After the tour Minister Johnson said, the idea behind the tour is to
work directly with stakeholders on the island to find ways of improving the way
we sell our product. "St. Maarten has a wide variety of services and
products, and many are some of our best-kept secrets. But to get to the next
level, we have to think of marketing the destination from the standpoint of
inclusion, ensuring that everyone who has something to offer our visitors, gets
the exposure they need, as this benefits the island and moves our economy
forward" said Johnson.
First VP Damaseau said she was pleased with the efforts both sides
of the island were finally putting into strengthening the MOU as it is "a
significant step in the right direction." She said, “Marketing our
destination collectively makes good financial sense, as we are able to pull
together our resources and maximise our reach. We also have a major benefit
when we speak to especially larger airlines we want to attract to the island
because we can sell a combined number of hotel rooms for example which is a
more attractive offer to them once they start considering offering our
destination to their passengers.” VP Damaseau has extended congratulations to
those who managed to reopen. “I want to encourage those also who are trying to
reopen their business, as I know it can be challenging, but know that we are
all in this together, because tourism, is you, tourism is me, tourism is all of
us,” said Damaseau.
The two government officials along with several members of their
respective Tourism Offices carried out inspections at hotels, bars and other
tourist attractions on both sides of the island. The intention is to use the
information gathered during the tour to update the destination’s marketing
information and to provide guests with accurate information about what is
available on St. Maarten.
The tour started around 9:00 a.m. at the Simpson Bay Market where
Minister Johnson gave information about plans to erect ten permanent structures
and an improved bathroom facility for vendors to offer their services to
visitors and residents. “We hope to be able to construct in the near future and
we are looking at how best to relocate or shift the vendors operating now to a
temporary location for both the Simpson Bay and Philipsburg operation,”
explained Johnson. Once construction of the Market Place starts, the project
should take three months to be completed. He also indicated that the Roxy Beach
project next to the Simpson Bay Market is slated to be completed early in 2019.
The next stop was the famous Toppers Rum Distillery where “Crazy
Dave” told the delegation about their latest large shipment of Topper’s Rum
labelled “Hand Made in St. Maarten” which was shipped to the United States of
America for distribution. The distillery is a favourite stop for tour operators
who service the cruise lines and is also a favourite for many residents and
guests at local resorts who especially love the personalised Topper’s rum
bottle options offered at the distillery. During the tour, the group were told
about the six commercial Toppers rum products and the many fun flavours that
were created especially for the Christmas holidays.
The tour proceeded towards Phippsburg stopping first at the lookout
point on Cole Bay Hill, then at the L’Esperance Hotel in Cay Hill. At the
lookout point, Minister Johnson and First VP Damaseau learnt first-hand from a
returning family of tourists, how happy they were to finally be able to return
to the island since it was devastated by hurricane Irma and Maria in September
2017. The Moore family said they travelled from Philadelphia to Charlotte then
to St. Maarten and it took six months to get the booking. They even bought a
book with photos of the aftermath of Irma once they got here to see for
themselves what destruction had been caused to their "second home."
Before the storm, they came to the island at least twice annually and enjoyed
the direct flight options that they hope will be returning soon.
Johnson told his delegation that some new plans are being worked on,
but will have to be finalised in close consultation with the family that owns
the property where the flag and statue were erected. The plans will primarily
improve the existing structure to make it easier to access, safer and more
information based, and make it a more attractive national monument. The
L’Esperance Hodel was extensively damaged during the hurricanes but has since
reinforced its swimming pool and renovated its 22 rooms. It was the next stop
for the group. The hotel’s rooms are complete with kitchenettes, and there is
complimentary Wi-Fi service throughout the property and a large sunroom and a
lounge for relaxation.
After visiting L'Esperance and attending the inaugural call for the
new state of the art Cruise Ship “Celebrity Edge” at Port St. Maarten, the
group travelled to French St. Maarten where they were treated to lunch, and a
brief overview of the special offers for guests at the new "Kakao Beach
restaurant opened four days before on Orient Beach.
First VP Damaseau took the opportunity to explain some of the
process involved in reopening the Orient Bay local restaurants. She said the
Beach is now “back”, but the government wants to ensure that the local
restaurants are opened as a priority. She said that a bid has been extended for
local contractors to build the new facilities that are to come at Orient Bay.
The French government has also approved a “Bay Watch” lifeguard service that
will be stationed in the centre of Orient Beach and will patrol the entire
beach to ensure visitor safety, in the event of an emergency.
The group visited several other locations on French St. Martin
including the Tijon Parfumerie which offers classes in perfume making and
options of creating your own fragrance, and the Grand Case Beach Hotel which is
still recovering from hurricane damage. Grand Case Beach Hotel has made significant
progress in its reconstruction. The hotel now has its own dedicated fibre optic
cable, providing 15 MPS per second free Internet. It boasts several beautifully
designed side table lamps made from recycled storm material, solar lighting
complements of the French Commune, a new beachside restaurant “Baranco.” Soon
to come is a bunker-style building to house a state of the art conference room,
which will double as a shelter for guests and staff during a storm, and will
have a rooftop tennis court.
The group also visited Le Temps de Cerises an eight-suite hotel on
the Grand Case Beach. During their visit to Grand Case First VP Damaseau spoke
of the long-awaited return of Mardi De Grand Case. The first event for 2019
will be held on February 5th. Mardi De Grand Case features a wide range of
entertainment, arts and crafts and some of the most exquisite culinary dishes
in the Caribbean on display in a Carnival-style atmosphere.
The final stop on tour was a visit to the Colimbier Tradition, a
local guava berry retail out which is run by a local St. Martin family who
makes and bottle their own products for resale. The facility, located in the
heart of Marigot the French Capital, sells a wide variety of homemade liquor.