~ Valya Lake-Pantophlet is Chairperson ~
Minister of Tourism and Economic Affairs Mellissa Arrindell-Doncher on Thursday appointed the first full board of the St. Maarten Tourism Authority (STA) foundation and immediately tasked the group to formulate a plan that would eventually result in the incorporation of an independent governing body (Zelfstandig Bestuursorgaan, ZBO).
Finalizing a process that started months ago and stressing country above politics, the Minister appointed seven local professionals to the board whom she described as “energetic, knowledgeable, forward and creative thinkers with vast knowledge over various sectors.”
Valya Lake-Pantophlet was appointed as Chairperson of the board by the Minister. Lake-Pantophlet is the Current Head of the Department of Economic Licenses and former Executive Director of the St. Maarten Hospitality & Trade Association (SHTA).
Anastacio Baker, current Executive Director of the St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce, was appointed Vice Chairperson and Treasurer, Law Consultant Eunicio Martina was appointed Legal Council on the board, local commercial airline executive Jeff Oliver was appointed Assistant Treasurer, local entrepreneur in the hospitality field and current Executive Secretary to the Minister Martina Browne was appointed as Secretary to the board, Cherinah Franken of the Product Development section at the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau was appointed a board member and Cecil Nicholas expert in the field of transportation and logistics was also appointed as a board member.
Together with the Head of the St. Maarten Tourism Bureau Rolando Brison, the new board of the STA were given several tasks including setting up their operational structure, presenting an action plan to government for 2018 and ensuring that tourism partners and stakeholders are consulted and apprised of the role of the STA moving forward.
The purpose of the STA foundation currently will be to assist the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau in carrying out the tourism policy of the Government of St. Maarten as a tourist destination; to support the growth of St. Maarten’s land- and sea-based tourism by providing the public and private sectors with focused, sustainable and productive marketing; and the enhancement of the visitor experience. STA will also assist and guide in, and direct all matters related to tourism, whether upon initiative from the public sector or the private sector.
The Minister said eventually incorporating the ZBO is the priority. Immediately upon its incorporation, she explained, the ZBO will be solely responsible for and solely authorized to execute the aforementioned tasks. The Minister met with the board on Thursday to congratulate them on their appointments and stress the importance of the job in front of them.
“At this moment in St. Maarten with what has happened over the past few months and how our tourism product will have to rebound, the STA is extremely important moving forward,” She said. “When you look at Aruba and other destinations, they are ahead at all times because of their STA, the elimination of red tape and the freedom to be creative and dynamic in an ever-competitive market.”
“I have the utmost faith in all of you who come from various professional backgrounds. You are all professional people who love St. Maarten and I expect you will do your utmost to guide the STA into a position that will benefit St. Maarten and by extension its economy and its people,” she said, adding that the intention was the appoint the board around the same time Hurricane Irma struck the island.
She also urged the board members to always be above politics and put country first. “This should never be about politics and always about country first. That is what I believe in, that is how I approached my tenure. Work for your people. You are all professionals and I expect this to be your principled position at all times,” she said.
As for the Supervisory Council of the STA which consists of one member each from the airport, harbor, SHTA and timeshare association, the Minister explained that the terms of those members have expired, and their aforementioned entities will be notified that they have two months to nominate new persons or recommend the same member for re-appointment.