Monday, May 20th

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Editorial Bare necessity

Again a public warning has been issued about the lack of marketing for the island, this time by its top bookings producer Expedia (see Friday paper). Both the Dutch and French sides are showing figures that were called sub-par.

In fact, the combined destination was just one of two within the Caribbean to achieve only single digit growth in nights booked via the company and its brands such as Travelocity, Hotwire, Trivago and Hotels.com so far this year compared to 2014. In addition, competitors such as Aruba are also able to get better average room rates.

It’s not entirely clear how this relates to somewhat more optimistic visitor arrival and resort occupancy numbers released in recent times locally, but sometimes it’s good to also hear from others “outside looking in” to get a balanced view. And let’s face it; the picture painted during Thursday’s gathering at Divi Little Bay Resort is not exactly a rosy one.

To achieve better results, promotion and marketing are essential. Other vacation spots such as the Dominican Republic and The Bahamas have been spending heavily to overcome challenges of their own, as that’s obviously what is required to provide the necessary boost.

Adding to the local concern is that very little has been heard or seen from the St. Maarten Tourism Authority (STA) that was to take over precisely these types of activities so they could be conducted in a more effective and professional manner, without having to go through too much bureaucracy. In addition, the UP-led government plans to switch the current Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT) Minister to Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure VROMI, and replace him with a candidate of coalition member and independent parliamentarian Leona Marlin-Romeo. The longer this remains “hanging in the air,” however, the less reassuring it becomes for the all-important hospitality industry.

All in all, “The Friendly Island” cannot afford to continue lagging behind other major players in the region. Properly investing in selling the product is simply not a luxury, but rather a bare necessity for a community that to a large extent depends on guests for its very survival.