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Chinese delegation impressed with island’s ‘beauty, ethnicity’

page9c111MARIGOT--“The competitive nature of the global market place demands that we act global and think global. We must sell our assets of stability, ease of access and ease of doing business.”

Those were some of the remarks made by Founder and CEO of Invest Caribbean Now (ICN), Felicia Persaud, in her keynote address at Friday’s exclusive invitation-only conference in the Chamber of Commerce on the theme “Investing in St. Martin’s Tourism Product”.

“Partnerships, collaborations, linkages, networking…that’s the key to the success of businesses, economies, governments, because from where I sit there is no way that any government on any island is smart enough to do it alone,” she added. “Private and public partnerships that work together can take this island forward.”

New York-based ICN partnered with the St. Martin Tourism Office and the Port of St. Martin to bring over 40 executives, all women, from assorted Beijing companies to St. Martin. The purpose was to pitch to the Chinese delegation not only the delights of the destination but also the investment opportunities and tax incentives.

The group had attended the UN Summit in New York prior to the St. Martin visit.

Major projects open to investors are the expansion of port services, the Marigot Bay Development Project and other tourism-related opportunities that fall within the Marigot Revitalisation project. 

The conference came about as a result of St. Martin Tourism Office’s invitation to Beijing last year by the World Cities Tourism Federation (WCTF), that connection being made by Invest Caribbean Now.

ICN specialises in matching high-end investors to key opportunities in Caribbean destinations. It was the first time the private sector investment agency had brought its annual conference to St. Martin from New York where in 2012 the island was the focus of the conference.

Earlier, speakers included Vice-President of the Collectivité Wendel Cocks, Vice-Chairman and Secretary of China Women’s Development Foundation, Qin Guo Ying and the Executive President of China Women Tourism Committee, Xiong Yumei.

St. Martin Tourism Office President Jeanne Rogers-Vanterpool in her remarks drew attention to the office’s new “smile at life” communication campaign, showing the video clip, and outlined some of the key advantages of St. Martin’s attractive fiscal policies and tax rules to encourage investment.

A panel discussion on Chinese outbound tourism followed the speeches with three panellists participating. The session was moderated by Executive Director of the Sino-American Friendship Association, Li Li.

The discussion produced some interesting statistics about Chinese travellers, especially the women.

Among 107 million outbound tourists in 2014, 17 per cent more female tourists travelled abroad than men. In the first half of 2015, 80 per cent of customers planning an outbound trip were women, the consumption environment of the destination dictating their choice, in other words personal shopping determined which destination to choose.

Female tourists were not only satisfied by shopping, however. They also liked spas, yoga and spa tours, amusement parks, local cuisine, movies, sightseeing and cultural tours.

Figures show that 71.9 per cent of female tourists preferred planned travel while 28.1 per cent travelled without a plan. They are willing to spend but prefer to stick to a budget.

One study shows women with extra disposable income are most likely to spend it on tourism. This accounts for 28.23 per cent of their budget, higher than on health care, cultural education, beauty, entertainment, and shopping.

Outbound trip decisions made by females were tallied at 70 per cent; 70 per cent travel one to two times abroad while younger female tourists travel two to three times abroad. Female tourists are becoming increasingly independent with 50 per cent making the travel choice and paying the bills.

The conference got off to an impressive start Thursday evening with a welcome dinner at Villa Mes Amis in Lowlands. An island tour for the group had been planned for Friday afternoon followed by dinner that evening. The conference ended with an exchange of gifts.

While it was too early to get a sense of any investment feedback, Li Li indicated the women CEOs especially liked the “ocean views, beauty, the villa, and are keen to come back with their families.”

Felicia Persaud concurred: “They liked the beauty of the island and the people. As soon as they got off the plane they were taking photos. They rarely see people of different cultures and ethnicities so they were amazed by that. Unfortunately the trip was very short because it was tied in to the UN Summit. Now we have to develop the link between China, New York and St. Martin.”

Also attending the conference were Senator Guillaume Arnell and Vice-Presidents Ramona Connor and Rosette Gumbs-Lake, as well as Territorial Councillors and other prominent persons from the French side.

When asked for her reaction to the conference Vice-President of the Economic, Social and Cultural Council, Bernadette Davis said: “This is a very promising initiative. Jeanne said it well - you can’t develop tourism unless you have an investment programme. I believe in jumping on the train before it leaves the station. It’s harder when the train has left. Let’s be honest, China is the next upcoming economic giant.”

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