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Record votes cast in fifth Crystal Pineapple Awards

page1b165MAHO--The Crystal Pineapple Awards and Fundraiser, organized by the St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA), saw a record 5,550 votes cast online for persons who have demonstrated exceptional performance in their field in 2010. The fifth annual event was held at Sonesta Maho Resort on Friday, November 26.

"Tonight we recognize and celebrate individuals with the right stuff," SHTA president Emil Lee said, adding that the association believes it is important to recognize and place on a pedestal the members of society who should become role models and inspiration for others to follow.

The event featured 19 categories and 70 nominees. While the majority of the categories were open to the public to vote for their favourite nominee online, there were also four none-voting categories, whose honourees were selected by the board of the SHTA. These four were Outstanding Journalism, the Tourism Industry Award, the Lifetime Achievement Award and the Person of the Year Award. The SHTA also surprised one of their own, Project Manager Valya Pantophlet, with a special recognition award.

Person of the Year

Dennis Richardson and Richard Gibson were awarded with Persons of the Year honours for their work as part of the constitutional team that realized country status for St. Maarten. The award is presented to persons that go above and beyond the call of duty and work for the best interest of St. Maarten. The SHTA opted not to choose one over the other, but to recognize both for "their tireless work and commitment to achieving Country St. Maarten for the people of St. Maarten."

Richardson thanked SHTA for the honour and stressed to the gathering that the work to build country St. Maarten is still to be done. He said he believes in the potential of St. Maarten and asked all present to continue striving for excellence, "do the maximum you can do," he said.

Gibson likened his work with the constitutional committee to a 12-year rollercoaster, an experience of a lifetime that ended on 10-10-10. He said he was especially proud that the dedication displayed by a group of people could come together and form three new countries while dismantling one.

Lifetime Achievement Award

President of The Daily Herald Roger Snow and Managing Director Mary Jane Snow-Hellmund were honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award. Presented by Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams and General Manager of Sonesta Great Bay Keith Graham, the Lifetime Achievement Award has been created by the SHTA and used only on very special occasions.

"This year the SHTA decided to dedicate this award to two individuals that throughout the years have taken informing the community to a whole new level. Their unwavering input and work throughout the years have ensured that the people of St. Maarten have had access to an uninterrupted flow of information that is available to everybody – not just an enlightened few – in the form of a daily news publication," Wescot-Williams said.

"These two people moved to St. Maarten at a time when there was a need for a real, general-interest and broad-based local newspaper on St. Maarten. In response to that need, the shareholders of Amigoe started The Chronicle on St. Maarten and these two individuals (who had just retired from the civil service) came here to work for the paper.

"They left The Chronicle in 1990 and started a weekly paper, called Caribbean Herald, in 1991. This publication became popular and there were calls to make it a daily paper, so in 1994 it became The Daily Herald, published Monday through Saturday. The paper grew steadily and now prints over 10,000 copies per day," the Prime Minister said in highlighting the accomplishments of the honourees.

Mary Snow-Hellmund recalled when people would wonder if the public would actually want to read the newspaper on a daily basis. Today, she said, it is gratifying to know that people can't do without their Daily Herald. She went on to thank the SHTA for the honour and the people of St. Maarten for accepting her and her family on the island.

Outstanding Journalism

Unlike previous years when this category was open for public voting, the executive board of the SHTA changed the criteria for 2010. The award was presented based on the journalist's work. The nomination was accompanied by two pieces, published in 2010, reflecting the importance of tourism to the economy.

Michael Granger, journalist with The Daily Herald who has written almost 200 tourism-related articles in 2010, won the award for his pieces on how St. Maarten's competition is outpacing the destination in marketing funding and, by extension, the positive returns on those marketing initiatives. The second piece focused on the effect of the world wide recession on local travel agents and travellers in general on St. Maarten.

Granger said the profession of journalism is "never an easy one, but is made easier when you have good teachers." In mentioning some of those "teachers," he went on to thank Regina Labega, Emil Lee, the SHTA, Valya Pantophlet, Keith Franca and Frank Arrindell.

He also made special mention of Roger and Mary Snow and senior management at The Daily Herald for "giving a head-strong, stubborn young man an opportunity to excel, an opportunity to learn a trade. Exactly 15 years ago you gave me direction. I will forever be grateful for the Snow and De Windt families."

Tourism Industry Award

This award recognizes international industry partners that have made a significant contribution towards the development of St. Maarten's tourism industry. This award category was not included in the public voting, but was decided upon by the SHTA board. This year it was unanimously decided to give the award to Jet Blue Airlines.

General Awards

According to Emil Lee, every winner in the Programme, Hospitality, Community and Trade awards had chosen not to be content with mediocrity, but had chosen to be exceptional. These "exceptional" winners were:

Outstanding Employee Training Programme: The Training and Development Centre of UTS. Outstanding Environmental Achievement: Roderick Halley of Seaside Nature Park. Outstanding Community Service (organizations): The Animal Welfare Foundation. Outstanding Community Service (individual): Rajesh Chintaman for his work with St. Maarten AIDS Foundation and Bishop Ellis Foundation.

Outstanding Achievement with Youth: Isidore "The Mighty Dow" York for his work with the Ebony Steel Orchestra Foundation. Rookie of the year: Jamesly Francoise of Princess Port de Plaisance. Trade Employee of the Year: Arnold Mauricio of the St. Maarten Medical Center. Trade Manager of the Year: Jesse Peterson of the Port de Plaisance Marina.

Employer of the Year: Terrance Rey of Air St. Maarten. Employee of the Year: Hector Acevedo of Sonesta Maho Beach Resort. Supervisor of the Year: Agnes Cannegieter of Sonesta Maho Beach Resort. Manager of the Year: Joyce Prince of Joyce Prince Tours. Restaurateur of the Year: Dino Jagtani of Temptation and Rare Restaurants.

Hotelier of the Year (small hotels): Edna Evans of Summit Resort. Hotelier of the Year (large hotels): Juan Fernandez of Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort. Outstanding Public Sector Achievement: William Bell of the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau.

Lee also explained that the funds raised at the silent auction, held simultaneously with the award ceremony, "will play a critical role in SHTA's ability to support its efforts to improve the quality of life in St. Maarten. Besides the obvious involvement in economic issues, the SHTA is very active in educational, environmental and social issues," he said.

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