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Where is the Timeshare legislation that would have helped prevent this disaster?

Dear Editor,

We celebrate the legal victory of the handful of timeshare tourists who were willing to organise against a well-funded and larger opponent, put up their own money, and fight for their rights to keep their timeshare weeks as purchased, but what we don’t see are the thousands of timeshare owners at the former Caravanserai who gave up and as a consequence signed away their rights. Sadly, the collateral damage to our tourism industry translates into a tainted reputation for St Maarten, lost jobs and lost contributions into St Maarten’s economy.

The draft legislation which would regulate the Timeshare industry and has been working its way through our Parliamentary system for many years is still not approved. Supported by ARDA ROC and the SMTA, this legislation would have helped to prevent this travesty and yet still awaits debate and ratification. Through MP Wescott-Williams and previously MP DeWeever, the DP has been and will continue to champion the need for timeshare legislation.

(According to newspaper reports)Last week the Court of First Instance ruled in favour of the Timeshare Owners at Caravanserai Association or TOCA and 17 individual members. Of the 2200 timeshare owners, 62 TOCA members and 17 individual members received news that their agreements are protected by law and therefore could not be nullified. This means that many of the other 2100+ owners that signed an agreement to accept Alegria’s notification that their previous ownership rights had been nullified and that Alegria would offer hotel units against payment, have unwittingly signed away their rights.

Clearly the losers of this fiasco are the people of St. Maarten and the timeshare owners who did not choose to fight for their rights. Just read the blogs to see the damage that has been done to the timeshare industry and to St Maarten’s reputation in particular.

The private sector provided key moral support, however, what was embarrassingly missing was any support from Government or even the least bit of encouragement for what is one of our most important sources of tourism revenues. This does not even consider any moral responsibilities we have to our loyal visitors. This is typical of our government’s approach to tourism these days and represents a clear and present danger to each and every citizen of St. Maarten.

St. Maarten has been the envy of every other Caribbean island when it comes to the success and vibrancy of St. Maarten’s timeshare tourism. Many other islands would covet the stable tourism base that we have in our timeshare visitors. The number of jobs in our economy due to timeshare tourism is a substantial percentage of the total. The independent business men and women, from taxi drivers, to corner snack bars, to pharmacists, to graduating young adults looking for work or opportunities, and more that rely on our timeshare tourists is staggering.

The Democratic Party has campaigned for open government and will continue at every opportunity to advocate for an inclusive government with integrity that is transparent, accountable and fiscally responsible. It is a well-established fact that the citizens of a country that have an open government are more prosperous and happy.

Emil Lee

General Manager

Princess Heights Hotel

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