Minister Ingrid Arrindell.
PHILIPSBURG--Ingrid Arrindell, outgoing Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation and Telecommunication Minister has urged the incoming National Alliance (NA)/United People’s (UP) party coalition to continue the tourism initiatives started under her tenure which has had positive effects on reviving the country’s flagging tourism sector.
One project Arrindell urged the incoming government to follow up on is the Sunwing Travel Group’s proposal for its Blue Diamond Hotels and Casino branch to invest in a 450-room, five-star all-inclusive hotel at Indigo Bay.
Arrindell said she hopes to have left the Ministry “better equipped to handle the challenges than when we took office” 10 months ago. Her main focus, she added, was “to ensure that St. Maarten has a year – round tourism season full of activities.” Those activities included sustaining St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, Carnival and supporting St. Maarten Music Festival, a five-day gathering of electronic music lovers.
Saying farewell on Wednesday, Arrindell outlined her main achievements in the Council of Ministers Press Conference. Among those accomplishments is the cooperative marketing campaign with Expedia Media Solutions and Trip Advisor. This is a private-public initiative with St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA) that was launched in May 2016. This marketing initiative, sent to end this month, has shown significant increases in online bookings.
The approval of the Marketing support for the Sunwing Vacations Cooperative Marketing Campaign for the amount of US $125,195 was another stated accomplishment. Sunwing offers packages from Canada, the second largest group of stayover tourists after the United States.
On the marketing front, Avireps was appointed as the country’s marketing firm for the Belgium, Netherlands and Luxemburg market for three years. Spring O’ Brien will do similar marketing in the United States starting in November, said the Minister.
Representation in the South American market is being finalized. Inter America has been selected again to tackle this market.
The beautification and upgrading of Back Street and JetBlue introducing its exclusive Mint service to St. Maarten were also listed by the minister among her accomplishments to boost the country’s economy and better its tourism offering.
The St. Maarten Tourism Authority (STA) is awaiting the advice on the finalization of the appointment of the interim director and the transfer of funds from Government to the Authority.
Still to come is the World Series Poker Caribbean. This event is supported by Government and will portray the country as the leading destination for gaming in the region, said Arrindell.
On the cruise front, during Arrindell’s tenure cruise ship Norwegian Escape made her inaugural call in July. The ship called here every other week up until the beginning of September.
Port St Maarten is preparing for MSC Cruises next generation ships and plans to discuss strategic agreements with MSC Cruises. These initiatives from the Port Management are part of their strategy to prepare and be ready to host larger cruise ships, following the lost calls from Norwegian Cruise line and Disney, said Arrindell.
The cruise passenger forecast for 2016 is approximately 1.7 million. The estimate for 2017 is 1.85 million.
A cooperative marketing campaign with Pullmantur Cruise is set to start next month and run for one year. Government is contributing US $150,000 to the campaign that will focus on marketing the destination in South America. The cruise will depart from Port St. Maarten from December 2016 until May 2017. Pullmantur plans to home-port here.
An enforcement policy was put in effect to ensure compliance with all aspects of economic activity within the Ministry.
A meeting held between Arrindell and her French counterpart Giullame Arnel to discuss the problems of Dutch bus drivers that venture over to the French side. Agreement made with the French Authorities to regulate the cross-border Philipsburg-Marigot route. Only 20 bus drivers with the Dutch nationality are allowed to venture over to the French side.
A moratorium on car rental licenses was put in effect as of September 16 for new applications and fleet expansion.
The purchase of five vehicles for the Inspection Department’s economic controllers to replace and upgrade the current fleet was approved by the Minister.