SAINT MARTIN (GRAND CASE) – President of the Collectivite Daniel Gibbs delivered the welcome word to the CaribAvia Conference 2019 which partly took place at the Grand Case Airport last week.
President Gibbs welcomed the conference delegates including Commander Bud SLABBAERT, Chairman and coordinator of Caribavia Meetup, Angèle DORMOY, President of the Interprofessional Chamber of St Martin, and Pascal MARCOUX, director of EDEIS airport handling company.
The Presidents speech is as follows:
Ladies and gentlemen,
I wish you a warm welcome to Saint Martin French side. I am very pleased to have the opportunity to present you our overseas territory, especially our airport facilities and our development projects.
After suffering the devastation of hurricane Irma, on September 6th, 2017, our island is now under full reconstruction. With 95% of all structures damaged, Saint Martin was in crisis management for several months. Gratefully, our airport was able to reopen straight after the Hurricane and help our government with the emergency operations.
Getting back on our feet after this huge catastrophe(i) has been a very trying and exhausting experience, but we can now confirm that the worst is behind us! The door is now wide open to investment on the French Side. Particularly for our regional airport which represents a great potential for development.
To ensure the success of the next steps after reconstruction, we have decided with my political team to reform our Territory’s economic strategy by:
- - Redefining our tourism plan
- - Improving our island’s attractiveness
- - Establishing stronger policies to attract investors
- - Reinforcing our international marketing
I have worked on this project for several months now, basing it on my conviction that a great part of our future development depends on private investment.
This is of primary importance in the domain of tourism, based on our needs to improve our hotel’s accommodations, our networks and other facilities.
Saint Martin is now building its economic growth on several facets, from securing our infrastructures to protecting our visitors from the weather conditions, as well as to setting an example in terms of environment, and focusing on sustainable development.
We are currently working on our international image through the elaboration of a calendar of high-visibility events to breathe life into our local economy and put in place a new marketing strategy to promote our destination.
Because Saint-Martin is a French and European country with a specific institutional status, our island is able to offer advantages in terms of tax system, urbanism policy and tourism development.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Now that I have given you an overview of our general vision for Saint-Martin, I would like to focus on the development of the Grand Case airport which is one of our main tools to improve the economy of the French side.
The Collectivité of St Martin decided to subcontract the management and operations of the Grand Case airport to EDEIS, a French Corporation.
Three airlines have regularly scheduled flights inbound and outbound of Grand Case: Air Caraïbes, Air Antilles Express, and St Barth Commuter.
With EDEIS and our regular airlines we are working hand in hand to create a high-quality of service on the French side, in terms of a choice for business travel companies and their VIP clients - especially for transfers to and from Saint Barths.
In addition, 2019 could see the arrival of a new airline from the American Virgin Islands.
Plans are currently being made with the civil aviation authorities to establish the routes, and I met with Mr. Albert BRYAN Jr., Governor of the US Virgin Islands, at the last annual CHRIS conference in Miami, to plan a visit to St. Martin to move forward on this important issue.
Additional projects are under development to meet European standards and facilitate the arrival of other regional airlines.
Furthermore, important work has been underway, this year, to meet the needs of our Airlines Operators and their clientele:
- - Waterproofing the terminal’s roof;
- - Replacing of the airport’s perimeter fences;
- - Creating a paid parking;
- - Major maintenance of runways;
- - A 30-meter extension of the runway at the end of this year to better suit the grievances of the companies and the reconstruction of the security perimeter of the airport.
We have a bigger extension project of 300 meters of the runway, but we’ve decided to postpone this project and put our priority on the security of the existing infrastructures given the circumstances post-Irma. We have planned to come back to this project later.
In the meantime, we are working with the French government to facilitate the VISA policy for the Caribbean islands to enter Saint-Martin French side. Because we know it is a concrete way to increase the air traffic.
It is not simple as we need a national agreement, but we hope to have a result on this issue at the end of the year.
Thanks to the ministerial decree of April 18th 2012, we already have a Short-stay visa application for Anguilla, Antigua Barbuda, Barbados and Saint Kitts and Nevis.
Discussions with the French State is underway to examine the possibility of including in this decree other Caribbean islands, such as the Dominican Republic, under specific conditions.
It is very important for the Collectivité of St Martin to support EDEIS in its development projects because our common interest is to see our regional airport grow in complementarity with Princess Juliana International Airport.
I know EDEIS is planning to construct the kind of airport that will go hand-in-glove with the tourism strategy that I put in place for my country.
I am convinced we will continue this fundamental work for the interest of our island as well as the interest of the visitors who like our Caribbean destination.
Before concluding, let me warmly thank CARIBAVIA and its chairman, mister SLABBAERT for having chosen Saint Martin for its annual Meetup conference. It is a great honor to host this significant international aviation event here in Grand Case.
This choice clearly demonstrates CaribAvia’s strong support to our regional airport, and the faith you have in our potential.
The reconstruction of the island is a long-term process, as I explained earlier in my speech, we have chosen to make a concrete policy by carrying out projects in line with the needs of our people and our budget.
I am convinced that it is through a responsible, methodical and structured policy that we will rebuild our island on solid foundations.
Thank you very much for coming and visiting us, I wish you to enjoy your stay and discover the many assets of the Friendly Island.
Thank you for your attention.