Ministers get updates on two timeshare properties

The eagerness of timeshare property owners to return to St. Maarten post-hurricane Irma cannot be understated, according to management for the Towers at Mullet Bay, and supported by the management at Diamond Resorts International’s Flamingo Beach Resort and Royal Palm Beach Resorts.
In fact, Diamond Resorts International is aiming to have their operation back online with a soft opening by the first quarter of 2020, while the Towers hopes to complete their repairs as soon as possible.
In recent weeks some timeshare owners have contacted government officials to inquire about developments at their respective resorts. Those concerns combined with the eagerness of the Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Traffic & Telecommunication (TEATT) to see timeshare and Free and Independent Traveller (FIT) guests return in droves, prompted his recent visit to three hotels on Friday last week. Minister Johnson was joined by Acting Prime Minister and Minister of Education, Cultural Affairs, Youth and Sports Wycliffe Smith when he visited the Towers at Mullet Bay. Smith and Johnson had fielded calls abd emails recently from concerned individuals regarding their timeshare on St. Maarten and the visit was a follow-up to his and minister Johnson’s initial conference call with the resort operators at Towers at Mullet Bay.

“The role of timeshare as a vital part of our economy cannot be understated. While on St. Maarten we have many mixed-use properties, the timeshare industry generates major economic output, and directly contributes to the income of the workers in the hospitality industry. A major advantage of the timeshare guests we receive on St. Maarten has always been their love for our restaurants and bars and other hospitality outlets,” said Johnson. Regarding the timeshare guests who have for years visited St. Maarten Johnson added, “their continued contribution to our economy as we rebuild our destination and maintain economic stability is vital and, we must ensure that this area of the hospitality industry is properly protected.”

Photo: (STB) Interim Director May-Ling Chun, Flamingo and Royal Palm Resort GM Mervin Le Blanc and (TEATT) Minister Stuart Johnson are walking through the Flamingo Beach Resort to get a first-hand look at the progress on reconstruction post-Irma.

He said, “This is why it was important that I meet with the hoteliers to get updates on how they are handling the concerns of our timeshare property owners and also to see how far along they are in terms of rebuilding their facilities to welcome back our guests.”

Minister Johnson and Interim Director of the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau (STB) May-Ling Chun, first paid a courtesy visit to Flamingo Beach Resort and Royal Palm where they met with the Diamond Resorts International representative Mervin Le Blanc who guided them through a tour of the properties.

Le Blanc provided updates on the ongoing reconstruction efforts for both resorts which were extensively damaged by hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. According to Le Blanc, while many may see the structure of Royal Palm Resort as being intact, every room had to be gutted entirely for health and safety reasons based on an Insurance assessment of the damage. This was also the case for the Flamingo Beach Resort.

From the left Minister of (TEATT) Stuart Johnson, General Manager for Flamingo Beach Resort and Royal Palm Mervin Le Blanc, Interim Director of the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau May-Ling Chun walking through one of the rooms at Royal Palm that was completely gutted as a result of extensive damage caused by hurricane Irma in 2017.

According to Le Blanc, updates on the rebuilding process is sent to members on a quarterly basis, including details such as colour schemes and designs for the new rooms. “We are creating a model unit to show what the new rooms would look like, which the owners are getting information about as well, ” said Le Blanc. The demand is there according to Le Blanc as the owners are eager to come back. An added feature when the resorts reopen will be a complete Americans with Disabilities Act (A.D.A.) compliant unit.

Regarding the overall look of both properties, Le Blanc said the intention is to keep the quality, look and feel from the past with some improvements. He also said the American based construction team is being encouraged to find ways to reduce the time it will take to complete redevelopment with hopes of a soft opening by the last quarter of 2019.
Although an international Construction Company has been contracted, that company is subcontracting primarily local contractors. Diamond Resorts International had paid out its workers after the hurricane and retained a small crew to maintain the grounds and pools until the hotel re-opens. Minister Johnson told Le Blanc that looks forward to seeing the return of former staff of both the Royal Palm and Flamingo Beach resorts. Le Blanc said preference would be given to those workers who had previously been employed with Diamond Resorts International, especially those who undergo the Hospitality First Training Program at the National Institute for Professional Advancement (NIPA) in Cay Hill.
General Manager of the Towers at Mullet Bay Clarence Derby gave both Minister Johnson and Smith a tour of the 81-room facility. He indicated that there were some construction delays primarily due to the impact on the operation caused by the present developments with ENNIA Insurance, who are the principal shareholders, and the Central Bank for Curacao and St. Maarten.
Derby said work has resumed and contractors are busy repairing the roof which was destroyed by hurricane Irma. They will also have to strip and rebuild the seventh and eight floors completely. Derby explained that the resort lost its data which contained amongst others the timeshare owners’ files which made it difficult for them to communicate updates with these owners.
However, through the efforts of the reservation team at the resort and some of the owners, they were able to reach a considerable amount of the owners who are being continually updated about new developments. Derby said most of the equipment and material to rebuild is already onsite. He said that every effort is being made to ensure that over 3700 owners can return within short.
“We have kept our full staff, and they are maintaining the facility while the reconstruction is ongoing. The owners are receiving bulletins, and our reservation staff continues to reach out to them to provide information and answer any questions they may have,” said Derby. He said that the resort also has a Facebook page which they use to update the owners. Derby explained that the owners are not at risk of losing their weeks at the resort and in fact those who had already paid their yearly maintenance fee were given the option to pool those weeks with Resort Condominiums International (RCI) and use them in other countries.

“I am fully committed to the rebuilding of our country and my Ministry will continue to ensure this remains a priority,” Johnson concluded