New Passport regulation symptom of Lack of Partnership

In dialogue with our French counterparts, the SHTA was advised that as a result of the new passport requirement for French nationals, both Air France and Air Caraibes have reported a 10-15% loss of business on the Paris to St. Maarten route. 

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And unfortunately, the 2-month grace period that former Lt Governor Richards implemented, has no effect since the airlines follow the IATA manual, which cannot be easily amended.  There are indications that this requirement is also damaging the summer businesses between Guadeloupe/Martinique and St. Maarten, a much needed traditional summer business.

Unfortunately, the French are not taking this decision lightly and may be looking at ways to retaliate by for example refusing Dutch taxis and buses from entering the French harbor.  Coincidentally, there are reports that excursions that have been bringing clients to the French side are suddenly encountering restrictions on the numbers of people they can bring. The SHTA was also advised that this has the potential to jeopardize other joint projects.

The SHTA believes that this issue, albeit a serious issue, is merely a symptom of a more fundamental problem: the lack of partnership and a proper tourism infrastructure.

The SHTA’s position has always been for structured cooperation and partnership on all levels.

Partnership between the neighboring islands via the "Little Caribbean Alliance" (consisting of St. Maarten, St Martin, Anguilla, Saba and St. Barths) began under the tenure of then Commissioner of Tourism Theo Heyliger.  The joint efforts of the Little Caribbean Alliance partners were instrumental in convincing Jet Blue to service our islands via Princess Juliana Airport. This partnership is a key strategic competitive advantage which no other destination or group of destinations has in the Caribbean and it is what sets us apart from our competitors.

Cooperation between:

1.     French and Dutch side through the "Joint Marketing Committee". The Joint Marketing Committee, as was previously chaired by Mr. Richard Gibson, with 2 hotel associations and 2 tourist offices, was proposed to be reactivated years ago. Instead, it remains dormant.

2.     St. Maarten Tourism Industry and the Island Government through "St Maarten Tourism Authority". For years, SHTA has been advocating for the formation of the tourism authority. For years, this football has been passed from politician to politician, from bureaucrat to bureaucrat, from department to department. 

SMART, SAMA and Jet Blue are perfect examples of what structured cooperation can accomplish for this destination.

Fact is our customers, the tourists, see this as one island with two destinations. For them, St Maarten/St Martin is one island, with two cultures and an experience that is further enhanced by the neighboring islands of Anguilla, Saba and St. Barths.

In the end, the sad truth is that if we’re not partners, then we’re competitors locked in a silly war over an ever diminishing pie. The SHTA believes that through partnership, efforts should be focused on growing the market share for the destination and then allow normal business dynamics to determine where the customers stay. 


Therefore the SHTA believes the plan of action is to organize a tourism summit between Dutch and French stakeholders in order to resolve this and other issues.