Commissioner Frans Richardson is Sint Maarten’s Commissioner of Economic Affairs and Tourism, Sports, Government Information Services and Aviation Affairs. BTN finds out his thoughts at Caribbean Marketplace 2010.
BTN: What kind of year do you envisage 2010 to be for your island?
FR: We envisage quite an exciting year for 2010. With record volumes of private jets, new airlift services out of Canada, Europe and South America, the year is already showing positive signs of St. Maarten having a very good year. Our confidence that this will be a good year is backed by the fact that St. Maarten had been chosen to be the second port of call for the inaugural voyage of the mega cruise ship “Oasis of the Seas”. These port calls will continue for the entire season, which also confirms the significant demand for the island and its stake in the growing cruise tourism industry as well.
BTN: How important is the tourism sector to the overall economy of your island?
FR: The tourism sector is the main source of income for our island’s economy. Therefore, we have and will continue to focus most of our efforts, on improving our level of service, infrastructure and facilities in order to welcome and host the many visitors to our island.
BTN: What is your approach to fostering public-private partnerships? And how has the role of public-private partnerships changed during the global downturn?
FR: We embrace and encourage public-private partnerships. During my tenure as Commissioner of Tourism and Economy, I continue to nurture and develop this vital approach that has proven to be successful when applied consistently. In particular in these times when many destinations struggled to maintain visitor levels it is important to join forces for the survival of all.
BTN: How does your role as tourism minister shape your island’s tourism economy?
FR: Coming from a business background and having worked for many years at the island’s main airport, has given me a good foundation and vision for developing the island’s economy and tourism product. I am a visionary and goal oriented tourism minister with a passion for success, hence I work very closely with the Public and Private sector towards the overall enhancement of our product.
BTN: What are you hoping to achieve at this year’s Caribbean Marketplace?
FR: To develop and expand my knowledge and share my experiences with my fellow Ministers of Tourism. This venue provides an ideal platform for exchanging ideas that will overall benefit of the common goal which is to enhance the Caribbean tourism product.
BTN: What are your key markets?
FR: Our key markets are the North American, European, Canadian and South American markets. We have started new campaigns aimed at expanding our visitor traffic in these as well as new emerging markets for St. Maarten.
BTN: What in the way of plans, development or initiatives are currently underway on your island?
FR: We have started and continue to develop plans that include improving our visitor experience by making major infrastructure improvements to alleviate traffic congestion, port infrastructure for increased Cruise ship capacity as well as working with various stakeholders to increase the island’s hotel room inventory. Additionally, various stimulus plans are being undertaken to enhance and encourage new business opportunities geared towards improving the overall economy of the island. During my tenure I intend to develop additional opportunities for the island in the areas of sports tourism as well as medical tourism. Quite some planning and discussions have already been initiated in order to bring these initiatives to fruition.
BTN: How would you describe the travel experience of visiting your island? And what are its USPs?
FR: Like no other place on earth! Its an exciting mix in which our visitors are able to experience so many aspects of this 37 square mile island ruled by two governments in peace and harmony, with ease and hassle free access to either side. Spectacular beaches, dinning, tours, friendly people and being able to experience harmony the over 100 nationalities enjoy on St. Maarten.
BTN: How would you like your island’s tourism industry to evolve?
FR: I would like to see our tourism industry, evolve to a level in which both our residents and visitors alike, benefit from the growing opportunities our beautiful island of St. Maarten has to offer. Growing in a managed and sustainable manner, in which the balance hangs in maintaining visitor satisfaction for repeat visits, as well as offering residents the opportunity to grow through steady employment that would allow them to provide for their families.
Our confidence in St. Maarten’s tourism future growth prospects, are partially also tied to the launch of a new branding campaign & strategy—setting it apart from our Caribbean competitors.