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LOOKING BACK AT RESULT-ORIENTED CARIBBEAN AVIATION MEETUP

SINT MAARTEN (SIMPSON BAY) – (By Tatjana Obrazcova) Caribbean Aviation Meetup is just some days behind us. An amazing opportunity to discover the region, opportunities for business development.

First of all, I must tell that this event is very different, it is resulted-oriented. I guess I never had the chance to participate in such passionate debate regarding many aviation topics. It's not just presentations, it is a great "fight" for every matter that touches industry professionals. What to do, how to do better, what is an urgent matter.  Opening of the event by Honorable Stuart Johnson, minister of tourism, economic affairs, transport and telecommunication who raised the leading role of St. Maarten in Caribbean aviation, the opportunity to rewrite its aviation policy.

There will be a series of articles regarding this event, as there were so many interesting meetings that we have to tell you about that in details. But first - I had a quick look back on the event with the Guru, Cdr. Bud Slabbaert, the Chairman of the Caribbean Aviation Meetup.

Q Event if events is just some days behind, what is your personal impression, was the 4th one different comparing to previous? Why?

A I have noticed an increase in engagement and interaction of the participants in the sessions. The Meetup is a communication platform not a lecture-and-listen event. It is important that we find results and solutions through an exchange of information, experiences and expertise. The format of the conference is different than others. Some even call it an un-conference. It is liked and many of the professionals have become repeat visitors of the event. Sponsors recognize the value of the conference which resulted in a sharply increased number of sponsors this year. 

Q You already announced dates for the 5th one, will it be hosted in Saint-Marten as well, what changes, surprises, new things do you plan?

A The date of the next year’s 5th annual Caribbean Aviation Meetup is June 16-18 and it will most likely be held in St.Maarten/St.Martin again. I intend to have a debriefing session with the stakeholders on the island first before making it official, yet, I’m positive about it.

A surprise, would not be a surprise anymore if I tell you. This year participants were surprised by having one day of sessions in a hangar of Grand Case airport with a free view of the ramp and its activities, while we sent a small group on a chartered plane to St.Barth for an exclusive mini-summit. And then there was a panel session about Africa which I initiated because I believe that the continent could be developed in a tourism source market and a partner for trade and cultural exchange. 

Next year we will have similar surprises that will make Caribavia stand out from any other conference. I’m considering to create an aviation week whereby the three day conference will remain the center piece. This year we had a debriefing at the end of the conference that was scheduled for 30 minutes. There was such an interesting exchange of facts and opinions that I extended the open debate to 90 minutes. Next year, we’ll have the debate on the first day of the conference and call it “Hard Talk” or something like it. For one the audience wants it and there is definitely a need for professionals in the region to speak up without limitations. So, we’ll open it up in the beginning. 

Q What people you are inviting to participate? Who should contact you and see what is possible to do together?

A The conference is a catalyst for action and activity. It is not as much who I invite to join. I create the conference towards what I believe is needed in the region and what is desired by the industrial partners abroad in order to be able to reach out to the Caribbean. Caribavia is content driven and the subjects cover a wide range of issues and matters. Mind that our motto is airlift, which is denominator for both the aviation and the tourism industry. Airline passenger seats are filled with tourists, airports are part of a destination. You have to bring those stakeholders together for them to understand each other better and explore ways for cooperation, and last but not least recognize new opportunities. Thus, putting a program together is not a matter of inviting speakers and presentations at random, but rather determining a purpose for including a particular presentation.

I have an open ear and an open mind. I always say that it doesn’t cost or hurt to open a dialog. Anyone who has a suggestion that will meet the interest and needs of the participants is welcome to bring it on. 

For everyone interested - I strongly recommend to block some days in your agenda for Caribbean Aviation Meetup 2020!

MIN SJ

BUD

AIRPLANE

 

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CIBC FIRSTCARIBBEAN FETES ITS CLIENTS ON SPECIAL APPRECIATION DAY

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – All across the region staff of CIBC FirstCaribbean threw open its doors with extra wide smiles welcoming clients with food, drinks and loads of other giveaways.

From the first one in to the last one out, clients were feted and fed as the regional bank toasted clients on Client Appreciation Day marked across the banks 16-member regional footprint on June 13. The bank’s senior executives fanned out across the various business units from early to give an extra special welcome to those visiting the various locations to conduct transactions.

The bank’s Chief Executive Officer Colette Delaney in the Cayman Islands for the official opening of the bank’s newest location at Health City Mall, also took the opportunity to meet clients to thank them for their confidence in regional financial institution.

In earlier remarks, the CEO reminded staff the only reason bank existed was because of our clients. “Imagine what would happen to CIBC FirstCaribbean if people stopped coming to us to make their financial dreams a reality! There’d be no reason for us to be here, would there? Every client is important to us and it is up to us to make them welcome. Each of us must never lose sight of the end point of all our efforts – the client,” she noted.

Executives and country heads did a number of meet-and-greets with clients throughout the day and also took part in serving specially prepared refreshment to the steady stream of clients filing into the various banking halls.

Chief Administrative Officer Neil Brennan spent the day in St. Lucia engaging with clients at the bank’s Castries branches. He also joined Branch Manager, Smerna Pompelis, Customer Service Manager Angelina Nathaniel and Country Support Officer, Kestan Jn Baptiste, in making a special presentation to the bank’s oldest customer Ms. Laurie Levexier, a resident of the Marion Home for the Elderly.

Steelpan music filled with banking halls at the Sunset Crest, Warrens and Sheraton branches in Barbados as talented musicians Keifer Kinch and Hashim Durant serenaded clients as they did their banking. Over at Broad Street, the season’s latest calypsos kept clients rocking as DJs Sugar and Spice entertained staff and clients alike. There was also a lively karaoke session with some clients belting out their favourite numbers.

In St. Maarten, clients were welcomed with tokens of appreciation. Customer, Darren Wilson, was the lucky winning of a lunch with his branch manager and refreshments and giveaways were given throughout the day at both Philipsburg and Cole Bay branches.

In Dominica, the sweet sounds of the Siserou Singers coupled with giveaways and refreshments made for an extra special banking experience there for clients.

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Maho Gives Thanks in a Celebration of You & Community

SINT MAARTEN (MAHO) – The Maho Group of Companies on Tuesday evening at the Sonesta Ocean Point Resort Royal Pavilion organized an evening with the Maho Family to showcase how far the Maho Group of Companies have come since the devastation of Irma back in September 2017.

The Maho Group wanted to celebrate with the community with an evening of full gratitude also showcasing how far we have all come as one. We are, indeed, stronger, together.

Here is the speech delivered by Saro Spadaro on Tuesday evening:

 

MAHO GIVES THANKS

GOOD EVENING TO THE GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS…INVITED GUESTS…AND MEMBERS OF THE

MAHO FAMILY.

THE THEME OF THIS EVENING’S CELEBRATION IS “MAHO GIVES THANKS”.

YET, WE CANNOT BEGIN THIS EVENING OF GRATITUDE BEFORE LOOKING BACK AND

RECOGNIZING THE INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT TIMES, AND THE SUBSEQUENT DIFFICULT

DECISIONS, FOR WHICH WE NOW GIVE THANKS.

THIS EVENING IS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR US TO EXPRESS OUR THANKS TO THOSE WHO HAVE

HELPED US, AND TO ACKNOWLEDGE THE SUPPORT WE RECEIVED IN THE AFTERMATH OF

HURRICANE IRMA, AS WELL AS DURING THE RECONSTRUCTION OF THE RESORTS.

LIKE ANY LARGE BUSINESS OPERATING IN A RELATIVELY SMALL COMMUNITY, MAHO IS AN

ECONOMIC ENGINE WITHIN ST. MAARTEN’S SINGLE PILLAR ECONOMY.

THIS ENGINE DIRECTLY AND INDIRECTLY CREATES AND SUPPORTS JOBS IN VIRTUALLY EVERY

SECTOR OF OUR ECONOMY: FROM TOURISM-RELATED SERVICES TO THE BANKING

INDUSTRY…FROM CONSTRUCTION SUPPLIES TO GOVERNMENT…FROM SHIPPING TO THE

AIRLINE INDUSTRY AND, EVEN THE AIRPORT ITSELF.

SO, IN FACT, THIS GRATITUDE IS REALLY ABOUT THE STRENGTH OF COMMUNITY.

 

AND…WHILE DESPITE HURRICANE IRMA WAS A GREAT TRAGEDY, IT UNDERSCORED THE FACT

THAT HELPING OTHERS IS FUNDAMENTAL TO BUILDING A STRONG SOCIETY…

HELPING AND SUPPORTING MAHO—WHETHER IN A SMALL WAY OR BY A GRAND GESTURE—

MEANT AND CONTINUES TO REPRESENT, SUPPORTING OUR ISLAND. REGARDLESS OF THE

UNDERLYING REASON OR THE ULTIMATE OUTCOME, HELPING OTHERS IN THIS SMALL

ECONOMY, NEED NOT BE A SELFLESS ACT…

MAHO IS THE LARGEST EMPLOYER AFTER GOVERNMENT ON ST. MAARTEN, WITH

APPROXIMATELY 900 STAFF MEMBERS.

CONSIDERING THAT THE AVERAGE HOUSEHOLD IS MADE UP OF AT LEAST 3 PERSONS,

MAHO’S LEVEL OF EMPLOYMENT SUPPORTS DIRECTLY OVER 2,700 PEOPLE…

FOR THE MANY PERSONS WHO ARE A PART OF THIS RECOVERY, ON BEHALF OF MAHO, I WISH

TO EXPRESS GRATITUDE.

FIRST, WE THANK OUR GUESTS. WE WERE TOUCHED BY THEIR SUPPORT AND KINDNESS IN

THE WEEKS AFTER IRMA WHEN MANY OF THEM DONATED HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF

DOLLARS TO HELP OUR STAFF.

TO THE GUESTS WHO STAYED WITH US SINCE THE SOFT OPENING OF OCEAN POINT AND

ROYAL ISLANDER LAST DECEMBER, THANK YOU.

YOUR LOYALTY AND SUPPORT MAKE THE HARD WORK MEANINGFUL TO OUR TEAM OF

DEDICATED EMPLOYEES. YOUR CONTRIBUTION TO OUR REBUILDING EFFORT AND YOUR

 

PATIENCE AND KINDNESS DESPITE EXPERIENCES THAT WERE LESS THAN PERFECT DURING

THE PAST FEW MONTHS, IS APPRECIATED. WE CONTINUE TO STRIVE TO EARN YOUR TRUST.

IN THE DAYS AND WEEKS AFTER THE STORM, AND EVERY DAY SINCE, WE FEEL SAFE THANKS

TO THE VALIANT EFFORTS OF OUR POLICE FORCE AND THE DUTCH MILITARY PERSONNEL TO

WHOM WE PROVIDED FOOD AND SHELTER AFTER IRMA.

OUR HEARTFELT GRATITUDE GOES—IN PARTICULAR—TO MAJOR JOHN BOYRARD.

JOHN, TOGETHER WITH OUR DIRECTOR OF CONSTRUCTION, ATTILIO PIAZZA, AND I WERE

AMONGST THE FIRST TO DRIVE TO PHILIPSBURG A FEW HOURS AFTER THE WORST OF THE

STORM HAD PASSED.

WE HAD TO CUT OUR WAY THROUGH TREES AND SAILBOAT MASTS WITH A CHAINSAW.

ON THE WAY TO PHILIPSBURG, I WITNESSED JOHN JUMP INTO A WRECKED SAILBOAT TO SAVE

AN ELDERLY WOMAN WHILE WE TRIED TO HELP FROM THE SHORE.

THAT’S ONE OF THE MEMORIES THAT WILL FOREVER STAY WITH ME.

THANK YOU JOHN…

DURING THE STORM AND IN THE DAYS IMMEDIATELY AFTER, WE WERE CARING FOR

HUNDREDS OF OUR GUESTS WHO WERE STRANDED ON THE ISLAND.

I AM PROUD TO SAY THAT BEFORE ANY MILITARY EVACUATION HAD STARTED, OUR

PROGRAM TO EVACUATE OUR GUESTS, ALONG WITH GUESTS OF THE GREAT BAY BEACH

RESORT AND THOSE OF SEVERAL OTHER HOTELS, WAS ALREADY IN FULL SWING.

 

OUR EVACUATION PROGRAM WAS ORDERLY AND HUMANE.

NOT ONE OF THE INDIVIDUALS IN OUR CARE WERE FORCED TO WAIT IN LONG LINES UNDER

THE SUN.

THAT WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN POSSIBLE WITHOUT THE VITAL HELP FROM SUNWING AND ITS

CEO AND PRESIDENT, STEPHEN HUNTER, WHO SENT AS MANY FLIGHTS AS WE NEEDED IN

ORDER TO EVACUATE EVERY ONE OF OUR GUESTS…

THIS ORDERLY EVACUATION WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN POSSIBLE WITHOUT THE TRUST AND

SUPPORT OF THE DUTCH MILITARY PERSONNEL WHO WERE IN CHARGE OF AIRPORT

OPERATIONS AT THE TIME.

I RECOGNIZE LT. PIM. AT THE AIRPORT—HE WAS STRICT BUT FAIR; AND, HE EVEN ALLOWED

MIKE FERRIER, JAN BEAUJON AND ROMEO FLEMING TO DRIVE BUSSES, FILLED WITH GUESTS,

ON THE RAMP.

YES, THESE FINE GENTLEMEN WERE OUR DRIVERS, RECRUITED ON THE SPOT BECAUSE

ROMEO HAD NO DRIVERS AND THEY WERE THE ONLY DRIVERS WE COULD FIND.

WE ARE VERY GRATEFUL FOR THEIR CONTRIBUTION TO THE EVACUATION EFFORT.

AND, OF COURSE, THEY WERE TOLD THAT THEY WERE RECRUITED BECAUSE OF THEIR

EXCELLENT DRIVING SKILLS…

WORDS ARE SIMPLY NOT SUFFICIENT TO EXPRESS OUR GRATITUDE TO SAMARITAN’S PURSE.

THIS ORGANIZATION DESERVES A SEPARATE CELEBRATION FOR THEIR CONTRIBUTION TO THE

ISLAND AS A WHOLE AND TO MAHO.

TO ME THEY ARE TRUE, UNSUNG HEROES…

 

WHAT GOOD FORTUNE WE HAD TO MEET THIS INCREDIBLE GROUP OF PEOPLE WHO CAME

TO OUR RESCUE IN SUCH DIRE CIRCUMSTANCES.

I COULD NOT BELIEVE MY EYES WHEN I SAW THE PALLETS OF SUPPLIES COME OUT OF THE

BELLY OF THAT BEAUTIFUL DC-8.

THOSE DC-8 FLIGHTS KEPT COMING IN THE WEEKS AND MONTHS AFTER IRMA, BRINGING

ADDITIONAL PERSONNEL AND MORE SUPPLIES.

PERHAPS SOME OF YOU RECALL THE SEA OF BLUE TARPS THAT PROVIDED TEMPORARY

SHELTER TO THOUSANDS OF FAMILIES ON THE ISLAND. THOSE BLUE TARPS WERE PROVIDED

BY SAMARITAN’S PURSE.

THEY DISTRIBUTED 10,258 TARPS, 12,973 BLANKETS, 50,450 LITERS OF WATER AND MUCH,

MUCH MORE.

REGRETTABLY, 21 MONTHS AFTER IRMA, YOU CAN STILL SEE SOME OF THOSE SAME BLUE

TARPS WHEN DRIVING AROUND THE ISLAND.

SOMETHING’S WRONG WITH THAT PICTURE, DON’T YOU THINK? …

WHEN ALL THE PALLETS THAT WERE ON THE FIRST FLIGHT HAD BEEN OFFLOADED—

NOT KNOWING ANY BETTER AND NOT REALIZING THAT SAMARITAN’S PURSE HAD SENT A

DART (DISASTER ASSISTANCE RESPONSE TEAM) OF 20 DISASTER RELIEF EXPERTS—I WAS

GETTING READY TO START DISTRIBUTING THE SUPPLIES TO GOVERNMENT AGENCIES AND TO

OUR STAFF.

DAVE HOLTZHAUER POLITELY CAME OVER AND INTRODUCED HIMSELF AS THE LEADER OF

THE SAMARITAN’S PURSE MISSION AND EXPLAINED THAT THE EQUIPMENT AND SUPPLIES

WERE GOING TO BE DISTRIBUTED BY HIS TEAM.

 

DESPITE MY EMBARRASSING ATTEMPT TO CONFISCATE HIS SUPPLIES, MY RELATIONSHIP

WITH DAVE RECOVERED AFTER THAT LITTLE INCIDENT AND WE BECAME FAST FRIENDS—

THOUGH HE NEVER ALLOWED ME TO PILOT ONE THEIR DC-3’S….

FROM MY EXPERIENCE, I CAN CONFIDENTLY SAY THAT SAMARITAN’S PURSE WAS MORE

EFFICIENT AND EFFECTIVE IN DISTRIBUTING EMERGENCY SUPPLIES AND SAVING THE PEOPLE

OF ST. MAARTEN THAN ANY OTHER AID AGENCY FOLLOWING THE STORM AND IN THE

MONTHS THEREAFTER.

PROOF OF THEIR DEDICATION WAS THEIR RETURN IN 2018 FROM MARCH TO AUGUST

TO SPEARHEAD AND SUPPORT THE RECONSTRUCTION EFFORT.

FOR SIX MONTHS, SAMARITAN’S PURSE INVESTED MILLIONS OF DOLLARS TO REPAIR OR

PROVIDE MATERIALS TO REPAIR 385 HOMES.

THEY ALSO REBUILT OR REPAIRED 35 CHURCHES AND DISTRIBUTED 2.5 MILLION DOLLARS IN

VOUCHERS TO THE POPULATION. THESE VOUCHERS COULD BE USED AT LOCAL STORES TO

REPLACE LOST OR DESTROYED HOUSEHOLD GOODS AND APPLIANCES.

IN TOTAL, SAMARITAN’S PURSE WAS ABLE TO HELP AS MANY AS 7,250 PEOPLE THROUGH

THEIR PROGRAMS. THAT’S APPROXIMATELY 20% OF THE POPULATION OF THE DUTCH SIDE.

YOU WILL UNDERSTAND MY APPRECIATION OF SAMARITAN’S PURSE WHEN YOU REALIZE

THAT LITERALLY MILLIONS OF DOLLARS WERE DIRECTLY INVESTED INTO OUR ECONOMY—

ALL MATERIALS WERE PURCHASED LOCALLY—AND THIS INVESTMENT WAS ACCOMPLISHED

QUICKLY, EFFICIENTLY AND IN THE BENEFIT OF THE MOST VULNERABLE SEGMENTS OF OUR

POPULATION.

 

THEY DID THEIR WORK WITH COMPASSION AND KINDNESS (THEY BROUGHT CROISSANTS

AND PAIN AU CHOCOLATE FOR THE BENEFICIARIES WHEN DISTRIBUTING VOUCHERS AND

BUILDING SUPPLIES)—AND WITHOUT GRAFT OR BRIBERY.

THEIR AMAZING RESULTS WERE ACCOMPLISHED WITH A STAFF OF ONLY 5 PEOPLE…

THERE IS A LESSON TO BE LEARNED HERE: I HOPE ALL THE ORGANIZATIONS INVOLVED IN THE

RECONSTRUCTION EFFORT IN PHILIPSBURG, WASHINGTON, THE HAGUE AND ELSEWHERE,

TAKE NOTE AND BORROW A PAGE FROM DAVE’S AND HIS TEAM’S PLAYBOOK: HOW TO

HANDLE DISASTER RELIEF AND RECONSTRUCTION AID IN THE RIGHT WAY!

IN OTHER WORDS, NO FANCY ACRONYMS, NO RED TAPE, JUST LOTS OF GOODWILL AND

EFFORT FROM SMART, ENTHUSIASTIC AND GOAL-ORIENTED PEOPLE…

SPEAKING OF GOODWILL, WE WISH TOTHANK AND ACKNOWLEDGE K1 BRITANNIA FOR THEIR

SELFLESS ACTS AND DETERMINATION TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE LIVES OF THE PEOPLE

THEY CARE FOR.

AFTER THE STORM, K1 BRITANNIA HAD TO RELY ON THE STRENGTH OF ITS LOCAL

VOLUNTEERS AND THE LIMITED RESOURCES AVAILABLE.

HOWEVER, K1 BRITANNIA, LIKE ITS LEADER PRIYA, WERE DETERMINED TO MAKE A

DIFFERENCE AND PROVIDE HELP IN WHATEVER FORM IT WAS NEEDED.

WITH THAT SPIRIT THEY WERE ABLE TO FIRST SAVE AND THEN CHANGE THE LIVES OF MANY

PEOPLE.

 

IN COLLABORATION WITH THE COAST GUARD, THE DUTCH MARINES, THE MILITARY POLICE

AND OTHER GOVERNMENT AGENCIES, K1 BRITANNIA SET UP AND MANAGED SHELTERS,

DISTRIBUTED AND SECURED FOOD AND WATER SUPPLIES, AS WELL AS SET UP AN

INTERNATIONAL VOLUNTEER PROGRAM TO FACILITATE VOLUNTEERS COMING FROM

ABROAD TO PROVIDE PROFESSIONAL HELP.

I COULD LIST THEIR GOOD DEEDS FOR HOURS.

INSTEAD, WE WANT TO THANK THEM FOR BEING ANOTHER GOAL-ORIENTED ORGANIZATION

THAT DID NOT ALLOW “PROCESS” TO TAKE PRECEDENCE OVER ACHIEVEMENT OF “GOALS”…

WHILE I WANT THIS CELEBRATION TO STAY FESTIVE, I CANNOT IGNORE THE FACT THAT AFTER

ALMOST TWO YEARS SINCE IRMA, WE ARE STILL DISCUSSING HOW TO REPAIR ROOFS ON ST.

MAARTEN.

LET ME BE FRANK: AND WITH ALL DUE RESPECT FOR THE ORGANIZATIONS AND THE

PROFESSIONALS INVOLVED, THESE ROOFS SHOULD HAVE BEEN REPAIRED ALREADY!

ALLOW ME NOW TO TURN TO THE MAHO FAMILY.

FROM THE ONSET, OUR GOALS WERE CLEAR:

O REBUILD OUR ASSETS AS QUICKLY AND AS RESILIENTLY AS POSSIBLE; AND

O TRY TO ALLEVIATE THE PAIN AND DISRUPTION IN THE LIVES OF THE ENTIRE

MAHO FAMILY WHICH INCLUDES ALL OF OUR EMPLOYEES AND THEIR

FAMILIES.

NOT FOR A SINGLE MOMENT DID WE THINK ONE GOAL COULD BE ACHIEVED WITHOUT THE

OTHER. IT JUST DID NOT MAKE SENSE TO US IF WE COULDN’T HAVE BOTH!

 

ON THIS POINT, I WOULD LIKE TO SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT:

LAYING OFF ALL OF OUR 870 EMPLOYEES AND SONESTA GREAT BAY’S 270 EMPLOYEES THAT

WE STILL MANAGED AT THE TIME—WHILE WE FOCUSED ON REBUILDING THE RESORTS WAS

NEVER AN OPTION!

AT THE BEGINNING OF THIS SPEECH, I MENTIONED THAT IN GIVING THANKS, WE ALSO HAVE

TO RECOGNIZE TOUGH TIMES AND HARD DECISIONS.

THIS WAS ONE OF THOSE DIFFICULT DECISIONS.

OUR CHOICE TO ATTEMPT TO MEET THE GOALS OF BUILDING BACK QUICKLY AND AT THE

SAME TIME ALLEVIATING THE PAIN OF OUR EMPLOYEES, DID NOT MEAN—CONTRARY TO

WHAT SOME BELIEVED—THAT WE KEPT EMPLOYEES TO AVOID PAYING CESSANTIA.

THAT’S SIMPLY FALSE!

LAYING OFF EMPLOYEES AND PAYING CESSANTIA WAS NOT THE RIGHT THING FOR THE MAHO

FAMILY.

HOWEVER, COVERING THE SALARIES OF ALL OUR STAFF WITHOUT THE BENEFIT OF ANY

INCOME FOR A YEAR AND A HALF, WAS ALSO NOT FINANCIALLY POSSIBLE.

WE REALIZED THAT EVERY OTHER RESORT OR TOURISM SERVICE PROVIDER WAS IN THE

SAME OR SIMILAR SITUATION. WHAT TO DO?

CERTAINLY NOT GIVE UP. WHAT WE NEEDED WAS AN ALTERNATIVE.

BUT CRISIS BREEDS CREATIVITY!

 

FACED WITH THIS DIFFICULT SITUATION, KEITH GRAHAM AND I, INVENTED WHAT IS TODAY

COMMONLY KNOWN AS THE EMERGENCY INCOME SUPPORT TRAINING PROGRAM, THAT IS

RUN BY THE ST. MAARTEN TRAINING FOUNDATION (SMTF) OR, AS WE CALL IT…THE

ACADEMY.

THE ACADEMY IS A POWERFUL TOOL THAT ESSENTIALLY CREATED UNEMPLOYMENT

BENEFITS IN THE FORM OF A STIPEND FOR THE EMPLOYEES OF THE TOURISM INDUSTRY,

WHILE PROVIDING EFFECTIVE TRAINING AND CERTIFICATION THAT WOULD ALLOW OUR

STUDENTS TO SHARPEN THEIR SKILLS OR LEARN NEW ONES.

IN THIS WAY, THE STUDENTS WOULD BECOME MORE COMPETITIVE WHEN THEY RESUMED

THEIR POSITIONS WHEN THE RESORTS REOPENED.

YET WE DIDN’T STOP THERE.

WE DESIGNED A PROGRAM THAT SET THE PREREQUISITE FOR PARTICIPATING EMPLOYERS,

THAT THEY NOT LAY OFF THE STAFF THEY WOULD SEND TO THE ACADEMY.

I AM PROUD TO SAY THAT THIS SOLUTION, BORN FROM ADVERSITY AND NEED, WORKED

SPECTACULARLY WELL.

1,566 STUDENTS HAVE ENROLLED SINCE THE START OF THE PROGRAM.

TO DATE, 628 STUDENTS HAVE GRADUATED IN 11 DIFFERENT COURSES, $5,085,506 DOLLARS

HAVE BEEN DISTRIBUTED AS STIPENDS AND $522,849 DOLLARS WERE PAID IN RENT TO NIPA

AND ASHA STEVENS FOR THE USE OF THEIR FACILITIES.

AS I STATED AT THE START, SOMETIMES HELPING OTHERS NEED NOT BE A SELFLESS ACT.

HELPING PAYS IT FORWARD!

 

THE FUNDS MADE AVAILABLE BY THE TRUST FUND FOR THE ACADEMY ULTIMATELY HELPED

STRENGTHEN THE BUDGETS OF THESE LOCAL INSTITUTIONS.

THE ACADEMY IS NO FLASH IN THE PAN. IT PARTNERS WITH AND IS ENDORSED BY:

  • AMERICAN HOTEL AND LODGING ASSOCIATION
  • SOUTH SEA TRAINING
  • SAMARITAN’S PURSE
  • SANDALS RESORTS INTERNATIONAL
  • AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION
  • RLA CONSULTANTS
  • ECOLAB
  • K1 BRITANNIA
  • NIPA
  • MIC INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY IN TRINIDAD.

WE THANK THEM ALL FOR THEIR PARTICIPATION.

I AM SURE YOU’VE HEARD THE PHRASE: SUCCESS HAS MANY FATHERS AND FAILURE IS

ALWAYS AN ORPHAN. KEITH AND I KNOW THE TRUTH OF THIS SAYING ALL TOO WELL. WE

COULD BOTH STAND IN LINE FOR HOURS TO TAKE THIS PARTICULAR PATERNITY TEST; THAT’S

HOW MANY FATHERS THERE ARE LAYING CLAIM TO THE ACADEMY’S SUCCESS.

HOWEVER, WE MUST NOT FORGET THAT THESE INCREDIBLE RESULTS COULD NOT BE

ACHIEVED WITHOUT THE ESSENTIAL CONTRIBUTION OF MANY INDIVIDUALS THAT WE’D LIKE

TO THANK AND RECOGNIZE TONIGHT.

 

STARTING WITH CHRIS JOHNSON, ONE OF OUR STRONGEST ADVOCATES, ERWIN

ARKENBOUT, AND FORMER MINISTERS MICHAEL FERRIER AND RICHARD GIBSON SR., PAUL

VAN VLIET AND WILLEM NELLISEN.

OF COURSE, WE RECOGNIZE OUR AMAZING TEACHING AND ADMINISTRATIVE STAFF, SERGIO,

DEBORAH, STEVE, SERGE, CARMEN, AND MANY OTHERS, INCLUDING OUR INTERPRETERS FOR

SPANISH-SPEAKING AND CREOLE-SPEAKING STAFF.

IF YOU HAVEN’T HEARD YOUR NAME, FORGIVE ME, IT IS NOT THAT YOU HAVE BEEN

FORGOTTEN, IT IS THAT THERE ARE TIME CONSTRAINTS TO THIS SPEECH…

SOME WERE SKEPTICAL AT FIRST AND PERHAPS DID NOT TRUST THE INSPIRATION AND

MOTIVE BEHIND THE ACADEMY OR SIMPLY THEY DIDN’T THINK WE COULD PULL IT OFF IN

THE SPAN OF JUST 2 MONTHS.

HOWEVER, THE PEOPLE INVOLVED WERE EITHER CRAZY ENOUGH OR OPEN MINDED

ENOUGH TO GIVE US THE OPPORTUNITY TO SHOW THEM WHAT THE ST. MAARTEN

TRAINING FOUNDATION AND THE MAHO FAMILY ARE CAPABLE OF ACHIEVING.

I AM HAPPY TO REPORT THAT WE WERE ABLE TO CONVERT THEIR SKEPTICISM INTO UNDYING

SUPPORT.

WE WISH TO THANK MINISTER LEE, JOY ARNELL, FRANCETTA SCHONE AND MANY OF THEIR

COLLEAGUES AT THE MINISTRY OF VSA, MIGUEL DE WEEVER, SASKIA THOMAS FROM TEATT

AS WELL AS NANCY BANEGAS RAUDALES AND THE ENTIRE STAFF OF THE WORLD BANK

ASSIGNED TO THIS PROJECT.

 

WE THANK YOU ALL FROM THE BOTTOM OF OUR HEARTS FOR BELIEVING IN THE ACADEMY.

YOU HAVE MADE IT POSSIBLE FOR OVER 1,000 PEOPLE TO KEEP THEIR JOBS, PUT FOOD ON

THEIR TABLE FOR MANY MONTHS WHILE THEY WERE NOT ACTIVELY WORKING AND FINALLY,

BECOME EVEN STRONGER PROFESSIONALS IN THE TOURISM INDUSTRY.

THE GROUPS I MENTIONED ARE JUST A FEW EXAMPLES OF GOAL-ORIENTED

ORGANIZATIONS.

GOAL-ORIENTED ORGANIZATIONS FIX ROOFS, REBUILD INFRASTRUCTURE AND MAKE A

DIFFERENCE IN THE LIVES OF THE PEOPLE.

PROCESS-ORIENTED ORGANIZATIONS ON THE OTHER HAND, FOCUS ON OPTIMIZING THE

PROCESS TO ENSURE IT IS AS CLOSE TO “PERFECTION” AS POSSIBLE AND, SOMETIMES, TO

ENSURE NO ONE CAN BE BLAMED IF THE OBJECTIVE IS NOT REACHED.

THE RESULT IS THAT THE PROCESS BECOMES THE GOAL IN ITSELF.

GIVEN THE DEVASTATION WE FACED AT MAHO, WE HAD TO BE PRACTICAL.

EVEN WITH THE BENEFIT OF THE ACADEMY, WE HAD TO RESTORE THE RESORTS SOONER

RATHER THAN LATER.

SPEED OF RECONSTRUCTION HAD TO BE BALANCED WITH FINANCIAL EFFICIENCY AND

MEASURABLE RESULTS.

THAT’S WHY WE CHOSE TO OPEN IN PHASES.

OUR SOFT OPENINGS WEREN’T PERFECT, BUT WE ACHIEVED OUR GOALS.

I CAN SEE NO REASON WHY SUCH AN APPROACH WOULD NOT BE SUITABLE FOR OTHER

MAJOR PROJECTS ON ST. MAARTEN; FOR EXAMPLE, THE AIRPORT!

 

PUTTING PROCESS BEFORE GOALS IN MY VIEW IS SIMPLY THE WRONG WAY TO DO THINGS.

I AM FOR EVER AN OPTIMIST, SO I OFFER YOU THE FOLLOWING THOUGHTS:

LET’S HOPE AND LET’S WORK HARD TO ENSURE THIS WILL NOT HAPPEN TO US IN OUR

BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY.

LET’S STRIVE TO ACHIEVE GOALS THAT ARE CLEARLY DEFINED AND NEVER BE CONFUSED BY

THE PROCESS TO ACHIEVE THEM.

EFFICIENCY AND EFFECTIVENESS SHOULD NOT BE THE EXCLUSIVE DOMAIN OF PRIVATE

SECTOR-LED INITIATIVES…

THE MAHO FAMILY HAS TAKEN ON SIGNIFICANT RISK, AND WITHOUT ANY OUTSIDE

FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE HAS INVESTED TENS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, AS WELL AS ENTERED

INTO LOANS FOR TENS OF MILLIONS MORE; LOANS THAT WILL HAVE TO BE REPAID, IN FULL,

OVER THE COMING YEARS.

WITH MAHO BEING REBUILT AND OPERATING AGAIN, A MAJOR AND CRITICAL STEP HAS BEEN

ACCOMPLISHED FOR THE MAHO FAMILY AND FOR ST. MAARTEN.

HOWEVER, WE NOW MUST KEEP OUR COUNTRY CRIME FREE, ECONOMICALLY VIABLE AND

WE MUST INVEST THE RESOURCES NEEDED TO MARKET OUR DESTINATION.

THAT’S NOT SOMETHING MAHO CAN ACCOMPLISH ALONE.

THE MAHO FAMILY DID ITS PART; NOW WE MUST DO THE REST TOGETHER AS A COMMUNITY.

FINALLY, A FEW MORE GROUPS DESERVE RECOGNITION.

 

OUR BANKERS, FIRST CARIBBEAN INTERNATIONAL BANK. WE THANK YOU FOR BELIEVING IN

US AND WORKING WITH US TO SECURE THE FINANCING WE NEEDED TO MAKE THE

RESURGENCE OF MAHO POSSIBLE.

I WILL NEVER FORGET WHAT PIM VAN DER BURG AND TIMBA ENGELHARDT SAID TO ME

DURING OUR FIRST CONFERENCE CALL ABOUT A MONTH AFTER IRMA.

AFTER I EXPLAINED THE EXTENT OF THE DEVASTATION OF WHAT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE THEIR

SECURITY THEY TOLD ME, “SARO, WE DON’T INVEST IN BUILDINGS AND PHYSICAL ASSETS,

WE INVEST IN PEOPLE AND WE ARE PREPARED TO INVEST IN YOU AND YOUR TEAM”.

THAT, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, TAKES COURAGE AND VISION, FOR WHICH THE MAHO

FAMILY AND I THANK FCIB, PIM, TIMBA, COLETTE, GARY, DAVID, GARTH AND ALL THEIR TEAM

MEMBERS.

LAST BUT CERTAINLY NOT LEAST, WE WISH TO THANK OUR CONTRACTORS AND SUPPLIERS,

WHO WORKED TIRELESSLY, WITH LASER FOCUS, ON THE OBJECTIVE OF REBUILDING THESE

PROPERTIES AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE AND AS BEAUTIFUL AS YOU CAN SEE AROUND YOU.

EACH OF THEM, FROM OUR CHINESE FRIENDS FELIX, DAVID, MR. LEE AND MR. XUE TO THE

SMALLEST LOCAL CONTRACTOR.

THEY ALL WORKED ZEALOUSLY LIKE CRITICAL GEARS THAT ARE PART OF A COMPLEX,

THOUGH SOMETIMES, LESS THAN ORDERLY MACHINERY THAT WAS THIS CONSTRUCTION

SITE.

 

TO FELIX, DAVID, ATTILIO, ALBERTO, MICHELE AND EVERY ONE OF OUR CONTRACTORS AND

OUR PROJECT MANAGERS: WHEN WE WERE FACED WITH CHALLENGES THAT SEEMED

IMPOSSIBLE TO OVERCOME, WE WORKED LIKE “ONE TEAM AND ONE FAMILY” CERTAIN THAT

WHERE THERE IS A WILL, THERE IS ALWAYS A WAY.

ISN’T THAT SO FELIX? THANK YOU, XIE XIE.

WE STARTED REBUILDING SONESTA MAHO IN JULY 2018, WE REOPENED OCEAN POINT IN

DECEMBER 2018, AND MAHO IN FEBRUARY 2019.

I BELIEVE THAT EXEMPLIFIES THE HERCULEAN TASK WE ACCOMPLISHED TOGETHER.

I WISH TO THANK EACH AND EVERY ONE OF THE MEMBERS OF OUR MAHO FAMILY.

A FAMILY AND A TEAM THAT I AM EXTREMELY PROUD TO LEAD.

THIS TEAM NEVER FAILED TO SHINE IN EVERY SINGLE MOMENT OF THIS DIFFICULT JOURNEY

THAT STARTED ON SEPTEMBER 5TH, 2017.

JOHAN, SERGIO, ELISKA, MARCO, NINA, JOHN, SHEP, CARMEN, CARLO, ATTILIO, AGNES,

ALFREDO, NIKKI, MARIO, DAMION, CHERYL, GREG, ESMOND, EDMOND, GIPSY, ELINE, NIGEL,

ELIZABETH, DAVID, ANN MARIE, AND MANY, MANY MORE: WITHOUT YOU, NONE OF THIS

WOULD HAVE BEEN POSSIBLE…

I AM HUMBLED BY THE CONFIDENCE AND TRUST YOU’VE PLACED IN ME,

AND I PROUD AND HONORED TO LEAD THIS FAMILY INTO THE FUTURE.

THANK YOU!

maho beach aerial view

 

 

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Bahamian Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace Shines at 2019 Caribavia on SXM

SINT MAARTEN (By Anne Salafia) - Journalists, pilots, and movers and shakers of the travel industry gathered to brainstorm at the Caribbean Aviation Meetup on St. Maarten/St. Martin, June 11-13. They came from around the Caribbean, Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria, Canada, France, Florida, New York, and London.

Their focus: increasing airlift into and within the Caribbean. Attendees also explored strategies to overcome obstacles such as high airline taxes and inconvenient, costly transportation between the islands.

The Caribbean Aviation Meetup, aka Caribavia, is a resulted-oriented communication platform for stakeholders in aviation, tourism, and investment industries, according to its website. The conference encourages thinking out of the box, together.

“St. Maarten has a unique opportunity to rewrite its aviation policy and play a more leading role in Caribbean aviation, as we rebuild our airport,” said Honorable Stuart Johnson, minister of tourism, economic affairs, transport and telecommunication.

Because the Caribbean depends on tourism, increased air traffic into the region, along with more intra-island flights, would not only benefit the Caribbean economy but also provide job opportunities for those who might otherwise move away.

Vincent Vanderpool, principal partner of the Bedford Baker Group in Nassau and past minister of tourism and aviation in the Bahamas, kicked off the Meetup. His topic, “Friendly Skies; Liberalizing Airlift in the Caribbean,” emphasized the importance of viewing the Caribbean as one entity with team spirit.

“Now, suppose there was a country known as the United States of the Caribbean? What would that country look like?” he asked.

He listed talented African Americans who have left the region and taken their skills elsewhere.

“Look at the individual achievements: From the Bahamas, Sidney Poitier who won the first Oscar for acting, Cardinal Warde, a professor of physics at MIT, from Barbados….You have Robert Rashford, an aerospace engineer from Jamaica whose patents were used in the fix of the Hubble Space telescope. And have a look at all the Caribbean participants in the Olympics!” Vanderpool-Wallace said.

He noted Miss Universe and Miss World contestants and Formula One race car drivers; he mentioned David Ortiz, baseball player from the Dominican Republic.

“You can go on and on,” Vanderpool-Wallace said. “There’s no question; extraordinary talent comes from this region.”

He called their exodus “brain drain.”

“The reality is that the Caribbean is among the highest places in the world for emigration of its citizens,” he said. “Skilled people are leaving.”

“People have a yearning to go somewhere else to express their talent. But, by making it difficult and expensive to go right next door, you force talented people to leave the region,” he said.

Again, and again, Vanderpool-Wallace drove his point home: The Caribbean must have easier and less expensive intra-island transportation and more attractive employment opportunities.

Islanders often have to fly though Miami in order to reach another Caribbean island. Why should Bahamians have to fly via Florida or sometimes even Toronto to get to a good fare to Barbados?

“We consistently make it difficult for people to move around our region,” he said. “The most powerful factors in trade and travel are proximity and facility!”

He noted that Mexico and Canada are America’s biggest trading partners, not China. More visitors to Las Vegas and Orlando come from nearby, not afar.

“If the Caribbean is not only the world’s most tourism dependent region but also the most aviation dependent, why aren’t we making it easier for people to use aviation services?” he asked.

“Proximity matters!” he reiterated.

He suggested that governments lessen taxes on airline tickets thereby attracting more movement into and within the region and allowing for greater hotel occupancy. “When we start talking about taxes for infrastructure, collect the taxes after the customer arrives by maximizing hotel occupancy,” Vanderpool-Wallace said.

“Here’s another secret: the shorter the length of stay, the more the average person spends,” he said.

Cdr. Bud Slabbaert of St. Maarten founded the Caribbean Aviation Meetup four years ago and has planned them every year since. He held this year’s conference at the Simpson Bay Resort on June 11 and June 13 and included sessions at the Grand Case airport on the French side, June 12. All in all, he organized thirty forums with Q & A sessions after each.

Honoring individuals and companies that have made outstanding contributions to business aviation in the Caribbean, Honorable Stuart Johnson presented the prestigious Sapphire Pegasus awards at the opening night gala.

Dominica and the Bahamas have hosted previous Meetups as has St. Maarten.

Speakers and participants left this fourth annual Caribavia invigorated and resolved to make a difference.

As Vanderpool-Wallace said, paraphrasing Nelson Mandela, “Everything is impossible until it happens.”

About:  Anne Salafia is a writer/journalist living on St. Croix.

Vincent Vanderpool Wallace broke the ice as first speaker at the 2019 Caribavia Anne Salafia photo

Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace broke the ice as first speaker at the 2019 Caribavia, Anne Salafia photo

Cdr. Bud Slabbaert Sapphire Pegasus winner Billy Bohlke and the Honorable Stuart Johnson 2019 Caribavia Anne Salafia photo

Cdr. Bud Slabbaert, William R. Bohlke (a Sapphire Pegasus award winner, and the Honorable Sutart Johnson at the award ceremony and gala, Anne Salafia photo

 The Grand Case airport hosted to forums on June 12 2019 Caribavia Anne Salafia photo
 

The Grand Case airport hosted to forums on June 12, 2019 Caribavia, Anne Salafia photo

 

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My88 equipment suffers major malfunction

SINT MAARTEN (SIMPSON BAY) - Management of My88.3FM on Tuesday announced that the transmitting equipment of the station suffered a major malfunction on Monday morning, throwing the station off-air. The technical failure took place at the St. Peters hill location.

Station Manager Mike Granger on Tuesday explained that service was restored on Tuesday evening twice, but both times the temporary fixes did not hold. He said actions to restore service will time “some time”.

“Unfortunately technical issues happen, but we would like to assure our listeners and advertisers that we are working around the clock to get back on the airwaves as soon as possible. We apologize for any inconvenience caused and look forward to being back with you very soon,” Granger said.

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Winair to offer two daily flights to ABC Islands as of July 4

SINT MAARTEN (SIMPSON BAY-AIRPORT) - With the state of connectivity, or lack thereof, for the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao) with the bankruptcy of airlines, Winair rapidly created a schedule to do its utmost to fulfill this void in the region, the airline recently announced.

In these efforts to ensure this, connectivity was re-established for the northern and southern Caribbean. Winair enlisted the support of its Caribsky Alliance (consisting of Air Antilles, LIAT and Winair) partners to begin and expand services in the region in order to meet demand.

The airline pointed out that challenges still remain to ensure direct and reliable service, for which Winair prides itself on, is maintained. So, in order to enhance the service to its customers, Winair will introduce new and convenient services to Curacao, Bonaire and Aruba to better serve the traveling public.

With this expanded flight schedule, Winair is confident that it will fulfill the needs of its customers, continuing to provide safe and reliable service. “We will continue to take you there and thank you for your continued trust and we hope to see you on board of one of our flights soon,” Winair said in a statement.

Commencing July 4, 2019, Winair will offer two daily flights to Curacao, Aruba and Bonaire.

DAY                 FLT #                ROUTING                      TIME                            A/C

DAILY             WM 806           SXM – CUR                   08.35 – 10.50               AT42
                                                CUR – AUA                    11.30 – 12.10               AT42
                       WM 805           AUA – CUR                    12.45 – 13.25               AT42
                                                CUR – SXM                    14.00 – 16.15               AT42
 
Mo/We/Fr/Su   WM 804           BON – CUR                   08.30 – 09.00               AT42
                                                CUR – SXM                    09.45 – 12.00               AT42
DAILY              WM 803           SXM – CUR                   17.00 – 19.15               AT42
                                                CUR – BON                    19.45 – 20.15               AT42
 
Tu/Th/Sa         WM 812           BON – CUR                   08.30 – 09.00               AT42
                                                CUR – PAP                    09.45 – 12.00               AT42
                        WM 811           PAP – CUR                    12.45 – 15.00               AT42
                                                CUR – SXM                    15.45 – 17.55               AT42
Tu/Th/Sa         WM 809           SXM – PAP                    09.45 – 12.15               AT42
                        WM 810           PAP – SXM                    13.15 – 15.45               AT42
 
Mo/We/Fr/Su   WM 808           SXM – SDQ                   12.45 – 14.45               AT42
                        WM 807           SDQ – SXM                   15.30 – 17.30               AT42

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Minister Johnson receives recognition from FCCA President Michele Paige

SINT MAARTEN (SIMPSON BAY BEACH) – Last Wednesday evening at the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) Platinum Associate Membership Advisory Council (PAMAC) opening reception at Roxxy Beach, Honorable Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport & Telecommunications (Ministry TEATT) Hon. Stuart Johnson, was recognized by the FCCA President Michele Paige for his tireless efforts towards the nation’s economic recovery over the past 12-months.

FCCA President Michele Paige gave a crystal cruise award of recognition to Honorable Minister of TEATT during her speech.

Paige said, "Minister Johnson has worked tirelessly with the industry over the past months since he took office close to one year now."

She added, "The resilience of your island and the work you have done to rebuild back better is surely noticed."

Minister Johnson after receiving the recognition for his hard-work to date as a minister stated, "Success in the Hospitality and in particular the Cruise Industry, particularly in the age of advanced technology, will depend on our ability to remain at the forefront of Information and our ability to move with industry trends and changes."

Minister Johnson added, "This evening it is my distinct honour to welcome the members of the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association FCCA Platinum Associate Membership Advisory Council (PAMAC) to our beautiful island."

He went on to say, "Since the devastation to St. Maarten caused by hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, this Government through the Ministry of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication, has made it a priority to increase the connection between crucial stakeholders internationally as well as locally, as we promote the vision of rebuilding a sustainable St. Maarten and in particular a viable tourism product.

“We are well aware of the competitive edge that for example, pricing will bring to our destination, and we are equally mindful of the need to match the price with quality of service. At the very minimum, our message to our local vendors in the hospitality industry continues to be always to strive to increase the level of service above cost.

“To achieve our strategic goal of sustainably redeveloping our country, this is an uphill battle. However, by viewing our challenge in a positive light, we see opportunities for recreating an even more uniquely beautiful and economically prosperous destination."

Minister Johnson added, "Your presence here today signals your commitment and ours towards the solidifying of our relationships to achieve our mutual goals. With the long-term average annual growth rate for travel increasing, complemented by the demand by vacationers for culturally diverse destinations, we find ourselves in an age in the hospitality industry where the business as usual model simply will not work. Sea and Sand are not only available elsewhere, but in our case, there are places where they are more abundant.  This forces us to rethink our approach to attracting visitors to the island.

"Your visit to the island as we host this prestigious event gives business leaders and managers in the cruise tourism and hospitality sectors a unique opportunity to garner vital industry knowledge and best practices which when implemented it will lead to long-term success."

Minister Johnson minced no words in saying "At the end of this week’s breakout sessions, we will no doubt have insights into how we can address the negative impact of Globalization, and changes in market conditions, climate change and the lack of innovation, productivity and competitive culture.

“It will help us hopefully answer the question of how we can, as Caribbean destinations maintain a high level of competition amongst each other, and at the same time collaborate on innovations and finding solutions to many of our challenges.

“Addressing these challenges while at the same time ensuring a safe and secure environment in which visitors and residents can coexist remains a daunting task for governments throughout the Caribbean and the rest of the world.

“Equally important is our grasp of technology and how we can best integrate new innovations in communication while disseminating important destination information to prospective visitors. At the same time, we are ever mindful of our geographical location and the threat of disasters that impact our economies and threaten the lives of our people.

“Thankfully it is through the gathering of great minds such as the ones here this evening, great ideas are born. I believe that one of the advantages St. Maarten has had in the past was its vision from an early stage to create a dedicated Ministry of Tourism that drove policy development to stimulate economic activity.

“This national commitment to the industry gave us an advantage of dedicated focus on the development and improvement of our Cruise Industry, which has continued to be a key income generator for our country over the years.

“But it is not only in the economic development of our country that the Cruise Industry has been seen as vital. The industry players have invested millions of dollars in donations over the past thirty years as well as volunteering their time to participate in events such as coastal cleanup campaigns, partnering with schools on educational development of our children.

“The FCCA has contributed significantly to the social development of our island. Youth development is an area in which the organization plays a critical role. Each year our teenagers eagerly await the announcement of the FCCA's Essay Competition. I hope that for the next few contests we will find more winners like 16-year-old Shannaz Horne of the Charlotte Brookson Academy who won first prize in the Senior Division and Tafari Prevoo Francisco of the Sister Regina Primary School who placed third in the Junior Division in 2018.

“We know challenges are being faced within the Cruise Industry, but with great challenges come great opportunities for growth and improvement. It’s time for extended cruise ship hours, permanent home porting facility, additional excursions and further opportunities for our people," Johnson said.

"I, therefore, thank each and every one of you for taking the time to be here and seeing the importance of this gathering. I especially wish to thank the FCCA and PAMAC for giving us here in St. Maarten the opportunity to host this event," said Johnson.

“Please enjoy our Hospitality and the friendliness of our welcoming and warm people. Be sure to sample some of our beautiful beaches and dive into a few of our famous dishes," Minister of Tourism & Economic Affairs Hon. Stuart Johnson concluded.

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STB: Business Community called upon to Participate in Caribbean Sustainable Tourism Awards

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) – The Sint Maarten Tourism Bureau (STB) is encouraging the Sint Maarten business community to participate in the Caribbean Sustainable Tourism Awards 2019.

According to the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), the Caribbean Sustainable Tourism Awards are aimed at identifying and showcasing Sustainable Tourism Good Practices in the Caribbean.

Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport & Telecommunication (TEATT) the Honourable Stuart Johnson, said that integrating sustainability in tourism and hospitality businesses is key to continued growth and expansion.

“In this post-Irma era, we need to do things differently. We have to build back better; one has to have contingency plans in place to counter and recover quickly after a national disaster.

“Sustainability and competitiveness go hand in hand and therefore sustainable consumption and production factors need to be part of operational procedures for public and private sectors.

“I encourage the business sector to participate and profile their sustainable initiatives as we all work together to promote sustainable tourism,” Hon. Minister Stuart Johnson said on Thursday.

The CTO says, the awards recognize individuals, groups, organizations or companies in any of the Caribbean Tourism Organization Member Countries which have developed responsible tourism products or are engaged with implementing initiatives that embrace sustainable tourism concepts and core values. These initiatives should also help to enhance the country's tourism product offerings and advance sustainable and responsible tourism in the Caribbean.

The deadline to submit entries runs up to June 30, 2019. You can use the following link to download the rules and guidelines related to the participation in the contest: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1fvMF2ThfoPZLAOS9pqn2ErQSnAOblE-s/view

Sint Maarten Tourism Bureau Director May-Ling Chun on Wednesday said this is an opportunity for the business community to participate and showcase their sustainable tourism good practices.

The CTO says that only CTO Allied, Affiliate Members, and Member Countries are eligible to apply. In the case where Allied or Affiliate Members operate outside the Caribbean region, only activities or business operations that take place within the Caribbean are eligible for entry. The CTO member countries appear in the country drop-down list on each application form.

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Port and Destination Ready for FCCA PAMAC. Itineraries and Authentic Tours Discussion Points

PORT ST. MAARTEN – Port St. Maarten and the destination are ready for the 2019 Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) Platinum Associate Membership Advisory Council (PAMAC) meeting that will take place from June 12-15.

As cruise executives and PAMAC Platinum members touch down throughout Tuesday, cruise line executives after their arrival on the island will take time out to be part of a panel discussion in the format of a townhall meeting on Tuesday, from 5.00pm to 7.00pm at the Port St. Maarten Homeporting Pavillion, at the Dr. A.C. Wathey Cruise and Cargo Facilities in Point Blanche.

Tuesday’s townhall meeting is for business owners, managers who are working and entrepreneurs who are considering starting a business in the cruise or land-based tourism field.

Cruise line executives will be available to share a wealth of information about industry developments and how the destination can further capitalize on the cruise sector.

This year’s St. Maarten PAMAC brings together 200 Platinum Members of the FCCA and 20 high-ranking FCCA Member Line cruise executives and top Chief Executive Officers (CEOs), who will be working together in continuing to build and expand the mutually beneficial business relationship that exists between the stakeholders.

“Two discussion points that come to mind that will be on the minds of Platinum Members and cruise line executives during their four-day stay on the island are authentic destination experiences and the U.S. Government’s renewed restrictions on travel to Cuba.

“Local people and local experiences have become the biggest draw for cruise travellers and this we know based on surveys and St. Maarten scored 9.3 out of 10 for cruise passenger destination experience. This is something that we need to continue to build upon. Culture -food, music, dance, arts and crafts - and people are the key selling points and each destination offers something unique where this is concerned. In order for our destination to continue to compete within the region, we need to develop more authentic experiences for our guests.

“The U.S. State Department announced last week that it would no longer permit visits to Cuba via passenger and recreational vessels and this includes cruise ships and yachts. Cruise lines who already had set itineraries will now have to offer passengers alternative ports of call and Caribbean destinations will be vying for this business as the industry looks for solutions.

“We look forward to welcoming cruise line executives and Platinum Members to the island on Tuesday and providing them with some ‘Friendly Island’ hospitality as they explore the destination over the next three-days,” Port St. Maarten Management said on Monday.

The PAMAC conferences give FCCA Executives and destination leaders the opportunity to dialogue directly with each other. While traditional conventions are “fast-paced”, the Platinum events create an atmosphere for closer networking and give the Cruise executives the opportunity to explore the new offerings from the host destinations.

On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday a number of meetings, receptions (Wednesday and Friday Dutch side, Thursday, French side) will take place along with various tours allowing cruise executives and PAMAC Platinum Members to experience the St. Maarten Recovery during the past 20-months and rediscover the destination.

Sonesta Maho Beach Resort, Casino & Spa is the conference hotel where the PAMAC guests will be staying.

The PAMAC event is one of many that the FCCA coordinates for its Platinum Members and Member Lines to stay at the forefront of information about both the industry and destinations while finding ways to maximise the benefits for all.

The FCCA is a not-for-profit trade organisation composed of 19 Member Lines operating over 100 vessels in Floridian, the Caribbean and Latin American waters.

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Heineken Regatta invites Sailors and Festival lovers to celebrate its 40th anniversary in March

SINT MAARTEN (SIMPSON BAY) – The organizers of the world-famous St. Maarten Heineken Regatta are excited about heading into its 40th anniversary celebrations and are inviting all sailors, island visitors and music lovers to join them on the Caribbean island of St. Maarten for “Serious Fun” on March 5 – 8, 2020.  

The focus for the anniversary and beyond will be the continued commitment to offer excellent Race Management in every class. Michele Korteweg, Regatta Director explains, “In the past couple of years, the Regatta Race Management has significantly developed, and we have been able to offer exciting and challenging courses for the professional teams, the Corinthian racers and the chartering classes. We have relentlessly collected feedback over the years, and we are proud to be able to further improve our operations based on our competitor’s input.” 

The 2019 Edition saw 115 participating yachts, a significant increase from the previous post-hurricane year and the event’s organizers are keen to grow the number further by inviting sailors and festival lovers from around the world to partake in the 40th Anniversary year from March 5 – 8, 2020.

“Our main goal is to offer exceptionally high-quality racing. We are already making exciting changes to enhance this 4-day event, combining windward and leeward races with distance and coastal racing. We offer something for every type of boat, from the beautiful Maxi’s who graced our shores in great numbers in 2019, to our loyal cruisers who prefer shorter courses and a somewhat later start. It will be a special year as we will add some incredible new features, like a special 40-Mile Anniversary Course, a Caribbean Youth Class, a Kite Foiling Class, and more to come!” adds Korteweg. 

The St. Maarten Heineken Regatta combines world-class racing with amazing concerts in a festival atmosphere, creating the “Serious Fun” for which the event has become famous. “Music is a beautiful way to unite people and we are bringing everyone together for 4 nights of world-renowned concerts, showcasing local, regional and international talent. We invite all music lovers and festival fans to make your way down to the blue waters and the white sand beaches of St. Maarten this March as we take you through a journey of music from the past to the future”. Describes John Leone Onshore Production Director. 

The St. Maarten Heineken Regatta Organizers will touch upon the historical significance this event has made on both the Island of St Maarten, and the Marine Industry. Furthermore, it will showcase the future of sailing by highlighting the latest in sailing technology in its Regatta Village. “Technology in the sport of sailing is growing at an exceptional rate, just look at the advances in the America’s Cup. We also see this annually up-close during the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta when the 12 Metre boats race on the same waters as the Volvo 70s. We want to highlight this in our Regatta Village by means of a Performance Park, where the latest in sailing technology will be on display,” concludes Korteweg. 

The St. Maarten Heineken Regatta will open for registration next month, allowing all participants to enter and start preparations for their stay on island. The Regatta Office continues to offer concierge services for those needing assistance with their arrangements.  

The island of St. Maarten and the organizers of the St Maarten Heineken Regatta look forward to welcome you to celebrate his 40th anniversary with some “Serious Fun”!

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