Johnson meets regional Ambassadors in Holland

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THE HAGUE—St. Maarten’s tourism focus continues to be on the rebranding of the destination and creating awareness of the fact that the island is open to welcome back visitors. That was the message from Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Traffic & Telecommunication (TEATT) The Honourable Stuart Johnson, when they met with several ambassadors representing Colombia, Italy, Canada and Panama during a working visit un the Hague, Thursday.

His French St. Martin counterpart Vice President of the Collectivity Valerie Damaseau joined Johnson.

The Ambassadors met with the Minister and VP at the St. Maarten House in The Netherlands. Both government officials outlined several plans for the island and discussed ways in which they can work with the respective destinations to attract visitors.

The working visit marks the first time that top officials from both French and Dutch St. Maarten have met at the St. Maarten House in The Netherlands. Their meeting in Holland is part of a destination promotion trip the two embarked on. It signals that Johnson and Damaseau have taken their memorandum of understanding on destination marketing to yet another level. Both sides of the island continue to increase joint destination marketing activities and enhance cooperation in service of the entire island’s best interest.

During the meeting, the delegates highlighted St. Maarten’s recovery status and the improvements that both governments were making to sustainably rebuild light of the devastation caused by hurricane Irma in 2017. Top tourism officials from the Dutch and French side along with the Tourism Director of Saba Glen Holms and the Minister Plenipotentiary of Aruba and Curacao was also present at the meeting. Amongst the delegation meeting the St. Maarten officials were, Sarah Gillis First Secretary Political and Economic Affairs of Canada, Ambassador of Colombia H.E. Juan Jose Quintana Aranguren,  Deputy Head of Mission for the Embassy of Slovenia in The Hague Mark Stucin, Ambassador of the Philippines Jaime Victor B. Ledda, , Ambassador of Italy H.E. Mr. Andrea Perugini, Ambassador of Panama H.E. Mr. Willys Delvalle Velasco,  Mr. Steven R. Butler Counselor for Political and Economic Affairs and Minister Plenipotentiary of Curacao H.E. Antony Begina.

Johnson said, “Our goal is to expand our reach globally and attract visitors from everywhere who have the spending power that is needed to revive the economy.” While the destination has already identified the type of tourism product it wants for the future sustainability of the island, the idea is to ensure that the good news of St. Maarten’s resilience continues to spread worldwide.

Damaseau said that there is significant interest in St. Maarten as a tourism destination, and these types of events go a long way to bringing visitors to our shores. She said, “Competition in tourism continues to rise, as many Caribbean islands are looking at how they can benefit from our destinations setback. This is why the Memorandum of Understanding between both halves of the island, was critical to moving the destination forward. We must speak with one voice to show our strength as a destination.”

Johnson and Damaseau both agreed that it is crucial at this stage for the alignment of the product development plans for both sides of the island. “We have to see what the Caribbean and the rest of the world is doing to position ourselves to compete with them in the area of Cruise and Stayover visitors. Ultimately St. Maarten will have to continue the work to ensure that our tourism product adequately reflects what our visitors need from the destination.”

He said that while there will continue to be a need to use conventional methods of disseminating information to market the island “we must incorporate advanced technology and make our message appealing to the younger crowd as they are now the larger group of travellers.”

Minister Johnson and VP Damaseau have both expressed their sincere gratitude to the Team at the St. Maarten House for their cooperation and support during the organisation and execution of the event.