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Soualiga Newsday Focus (1006)

Cuba Tourism Air Traffic Forecast to Grow with Open Air Agreement

SINT MAARTEN/CUBA – Cuba has been described as the awakening tourism giant of the Caribbean.  Agreements have been reached in air transportation as well as cruises to the island.

 Fitch Credit Investment Ratings Group recently said that with the agreement reached between the United States of America and Cuba regarding air transportation, two nations in the Caribbean are being used as comparisons with respect to the type of air traffic growth Cuba will see, namely Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

The air agreement with Cuba at the moment allows for 20 daily flights to Havana (Jose Marti International Airport) and 90 daily flights to nine other Cuban cities.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported that in 2014 Puerto Rico’s international airport Luis Munoz Marin had over 4.1 million enplanements.

The Dominican Republic’s Punta Cana International Airport, according to the Central Bank of that country, the later saw 5.2 million enplanements in 2013.  

Modest growth in air travel to Cuba is expected in the coming years climbing to the same levels of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

Other destinations in the Caribbean will have to review their air development plans and push forward in opening new routes if they are to retain current numbers to their destinations.  The regional air traffic business according to some analysts will go where growth is, and Cuba will be the destination.

The aforementioned is once again an eye-opener for regional airports including Sint Maarten, that you cannot rest on your laurels, but will have to move forward in executing plans that secure new business for the long-term sustainability of an airport and the destination.

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Increased Security Surveillance at the Airport. Passengers need to check-in three hours before

SINT MAARTEN/PUERTO RICO – Security has been increased at the airport, and passengers departing the Luis Munoz Marin International Airport will have to arrive at the airport three hours before scheduled departures.

Sint Maarten vacationers and shoppers will have to keep this in mind when catching their flight back to Princess Juliana International Airport.

The tighter security is due to the terrorists attacks carried out in Brussels, Belgium last week Tuesday.

Under normal circumstances, passengers could arrive and check-in at least two hours before departure time.

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Popular North American general interest magazine Reader’s Digest Names St. Maarten Amongst Top Ten Bird-Watching Destinations in the Americas

COLE BAY - Popular North American General Interest Magazine has named St. Maarten as one of the Top Ten destinations in the Caribbean for Bird-Tourism. The magazine highlighted Sint Maarten as an “A hot spot for migrating sea birds with a burgeoning bird watching scene.

Visitors to the annual Migratory Seabird Festival can enjoy guided tours to the island’s 164 species in a variety of locations and learn more about the birds through local environmental organizations.

Specific mention was also given to the National Bird of St. Maarten, the Brown Pelican; “You won’t need your binoculars to spot St. Maarten’s national bird, the Brown Pelican—it can be found on nearly every beach!


Reader's Digest is an American general-interest family magazine, published monthly and reaches approximately 40 million people in more than 70 countries, with 49 editions in 21 languages, making it the largest paid circulation magazine in the world.

“The fact that St. Maarten has been featured as the number eight destination in the Americas for Bird Watching shows that both conservation efforts and efforts to increase eco-tourism are starting to pay off.

“Bird-tourism is a multi-million-dollar industry and together with other eco-tourism initiatives it would be in the best interest of the country to continue to invest in building out this market. This shows that not only does environmental protection work in safeguarding nature, but also has an impact on the economy of St. Maarten in a very positive way,” commented Tadzio Bervoets, Nature Foundation Manager.

Read more at http://www.readersdigest.ca/travel/world/10-best-tropical-destinations-bird-watchers

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World tourism agency advocates for safer, easier travel in 2016

SINT MAARTEN/INTERNATIONAL – The promotion of safe and seamless travel should be one of the key priorities for the tourism industry this year, says the head of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

“Safety and security are priorities for all and we need to ensure tourism is fully integrated into national and international security agendas,” Taleb Rifai, UNWTO Secretary-General,told the opening ceremony of the major tourism trade fair known as ITB Berlin [Internationale Tourismus-Borse Berlin].

In his address on Tuesday, Mr. Rifai cautioned that security challenges should not prompt the building of new walls and stressed the need “to cooperate, not isolate.”

“Enhancing security and enabling more seamless travel should always go hand-in-hand,” he noted.

One of the ways to make travel safer and easier is through technology, Mr. Rifai said, which is rapidly changing consumers’ behaviour and business models.

He highlighted the need to better understand the impact of technology on the tourism sector, and to maximize new opportunities that improve the competitiveness of destinations and help manage natural resources more effectively.

The tourism industry can embrace sustainability and still reach its economic goals, was another key message for 2016, as the UN agency expects the industry to grow an estimated 4 per cent this year.

Mr. Rifai called on industry representatives to adhere to the 2030 Agenda, which contains the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a “matter of realizing benefits for all.”

The topic will be particularly relevant next year, given that the UN has declared 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.

“Climate change mitigation, effective resource management, poverty reduction and inclusive growth need to be at the centre of tourism development,” said Mr. Rifai.

Addressing these priorities can only be achieved with tourism established as a national priority with the necessary financial and political support to advance the sector. At the same time, tourism can support the economic, social and environmental foundations of many countries, he noted.

“As we embrace a new sustainable development agenda let us ensure that while we build a more competitive sector we are also contributing to a better world,” Mr. Rifai urged the audience.

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Tourism Authority to support culinary, heritage tourism experiences for visitors

SINT MAARTEN/BERMUDA – In order to improve the tourism product for visitors, and to remain a competitive tourism destination, investments have to be continuously made in order to be ahead of the competition.

A tourism authority also has an investment wing that channels funds into visitor experiences, and for 2016, the Bermuda Tourism Authority (BTA) will renew funding for Bermuda Fly-fishing Invitational, Bermuda Yoga Festival, and Bermuda Heroes’ Weekend.

38 tourism experiences will be receiving funding of more than half a million dollars, and this includes more than 12 new experiences. 

Some of the new tourism experiences include an intimate dinner theatre performance of Reminiscences and Other Lies, and a new water sport experience which came about after carrying out a survey among customers in order to improve the services that the business offers and introduce new products and services that keeps the visitor experience at the top.

In the summer, Kinezumi Water Sports will introduce the hydro-powered Jetovator, among other water-based products.

The “Carnival-chaser” is a new visitor market that is being tapped by tourism authorities.

The BTA contributions to home-grown ideas is to help revive the island’s collection of visitor experiences which is also based on consumer research, an essential ingredient that helps one develop and package products for visitors along with the advice of tourism industry entrepreneurs.

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Enhancing quality customer care to visitors. No room for complacency

SINT MAARTEN/USVI – Customer service training sessions will kick-off on March 3 as an on-going effort to enhance the delivery of quality customer care to tourists as there is no room for complacency.

One workshop will entail a four-hour session for taxi drivers and tour operators.  Overall, the sessions will focus on what makes Caribbean tourism the main economic engine, and to discover the potential of Caribbean people.

The sessions will also explore key performance standards and how to work with honesty, integrity and confidence in the hospitality sector, and how providing excellent service can result in job security and financial stability, and relationship values and their impact on the quality of service delivered to a destinations guests.

The training sessions will take place at the University of the Virgin Islands and is being led by the V.I. Tourism Department.

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Routes Americas 2016 Aviation Conference Concludes with Mega Attendance

SINT MAARTEN – The Routes Americas 2016 Conference concluded in Puerto Rico during the past couple of days. It took place at the Convention Center and attracted approximately 750 delegates, an increase of 80 per cent since the lasts two conferences.

Routes Americas brought together aviation, cruise lines and tourism stakeholders with respect to the development of new air routes within the Caribbean Basin which also includes destination Sint Maarten.

Puerto Rico showcased new airline opportunities that included the newly opened maintenance, repair facility Lufthansa Technik. 

Puerto Rico continues to position itself as the Region’s air hub with the largest airport.  The island has received new airlines such as Air Europa (Spain), Condor (Germany), and Norwegian Air (Norway) giving travellers direct connections to a number of major European cities.

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Tourism Authority receives extra funding for promotion of the destination

SINT MAARTEN/BERMUDA – The Tourism Authority has been given an additional one million dollars bringing its total to 22.7 million dollars for the promotion of the destination.

The Government has also doubled the Tourism Authority Fee, which is paid directly to the authority by the island’s hotels, from 2.5 per cent to 5 per cent.

The Finance Minister during the budgetary debate stated that the Bermuda Tourism Authority (BTA) has made significant progress in highly profiling the image of the destination via marketing activities.

Some of the benefits are securing airline seats to meet demand.  For the first quarter of 2016, due to the close working relationship between the BTA and the Government, airline seat capacity has increased by eight per cent.

The results achieved by the BTA in 2015 helped to maintain tourism employment levels year-round.

The BTA will also allocate one million dollars to support tourism entrepreneurs as an effort to improve the on-island experience of visitors in order to stimulate spending.

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St. Maarten Heineken Regatta confirms a talent filled Friday night March 4th schedule with Eight Bands

SIMPSON BAY - The regatta schedule has slowly been rolled out over the past few weeks and the final details have now been determined. The programme on March 4th is the fullest it has ever been! Eight bands are scheduled to perform on the Friday night and the Boardwalk will be transformed into a music festival, showcasing some of the enormous talent that St. Maarten has to offer.

Local radio personality Gee Money will be the MC for the evening, and will certainly have his work cut out for him as he will have to navigate between four stages. Nestled in amongst the stages are a host of bars, restaurants and vendors, all ready to make the regatta experience unforgettable.

The stages will be spread out down the length of the Boardwalk in Philipsburg, starting in front of the Passangrahan and working all the way down to the new Walter Plantz Square. Festivities are slated to begin at 17:00 and will continue on until 01:30.

A variety of bands have been booked and include Remo & Barbwire Band, X-plosion Band, Koolberry Jam, Impakt Band, Control Band, Mighty Dow & His Ebony Steel Orchestra and Shadowman. In addition, there will be music sets performed by DJ Eagle, house DJ for the evening and winner of the 2015 Heineken Soggy Sounds DJ Championships.

Many of the bands slated to perform are no strangers to the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, and the idea of turning the Boardwalk event into a place to showcase the island's talented bands was well received. The evening will certainly fill the warm air with sounds from all sorts of music genres from Calypso to Reggae, Zouk to Soca and Steel Pan to Pop, assuring that everyone will enjoy an amazing regatta experience.

X-plosion Band is scheduled to perform on stage in front of the Passangrahan Hotel at 20:30. They are no strangers to the island music scene and have been performing since 1990. In addition to performing at the regatta they are often found at Carnival celebrations in St. Maarten and around the region. Their high energy sounds will get the crowd on their feet for sure.

Control Band will bring a Latin flair to the program when they take the stage in front of the Sint Rose Arcade at 21:30. They are one of the most popular bands on the island and will bring a mix of dance hits and Latin vibes to the stage and guarantee a good time. Dancing will most certainly be required.

Mighty Dow & his Ebony Steel Orchestra is another crowd favourite. Isidore York is widely regarded as a St. Maarten success story. His Steelpan music has been heard around the world, but his true passion remains in his homeland where he continues to train and teach young musicians the fine art of the Steelpan music. His performance at the regatta will take place at 19:00 at the Captain Hodge Warf and is a performance you don't want to miss.

Down at the Walter Plantz Square the night will be dominated by the illustrious Shadowman. Addison Richardson, who is better known as Shadowman, began seriously performing on stage in St. Maarten back in 2001 and has not stopped. His unique style will pull you close and have you moving all night long. Festivities at this stage will continue throughout the evening.

The remaining bands will be filling the stages at a variety of times, allowing the crowds to mingle back and forth, while enjoying different beats and sounds. For the entire schedule and times visit the regatta website www.heinekenregatta.com.

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Hoteliers call on Government to increase budget for Tourism Authority

SINT MAARTEN/BERMUDA – Hoteliers are calling on the Government to increase its funding to the Tourism Authority in the 2016-2017 Budget. 

The hoteliers support the call by the Bermuda Tourism Authority who earlier came out and called for an increase in the budget which would help market the destination more effectively.

Hoteliers are of the opinion that any additional money for the Tourism Authority should be used directly in marketing the destination or improving airlift, adding that any increases in spending as a result in an increase in visitors would be recovered in tax revenue.

The hoteliers and Tourism Authority are of the opinion that the Government should focus on measures that will expand the economy and encourage job creation as opposed to raising taxes to lower the budget deficit, adding that increased financial support is needed for the authority.

The work of the Tourism Authority has been commended for staving off the decline of tourism on the island of Bermuda, and the authority is working to turn the tourism industry around.

Destination Sint Maarten has been in the process of establishing a Tourism Authority for more than a decade, to no avail.  The current Sint Maarten Minister of Tourism Ingrid Arrindell during the 2016 Budget debate in the Central Committee last week stated that the countries Tourism Authority would established within two months.  

The Budget is to be delivered to parliament by the end of the month.

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