The first ever St. Maarten/ St. Martin Annual Regional Tradeshow will take place 25 - 27 April, 2002, at the Maho Beach Resort & Casino, St. Maarten. The show aims to bring together the movers and shakers in the tourist industry for St. Maarten and surrounding Islands. Liesa Euton-Marinaro, SMART Chairperson, gives an exclusive interview on the event.
Q. When did this campaign begin?
A. I`ll give you a little background history. In 1999, there was the French-side hotel Association, Association Des Hotels de Sint Maarten, and the Dutch-side hotel association, St Martin Hospitality Trade Association of then my turn of Presidency, 1999 -2001.
My successor and I had decided along with the manager of the Meridien at the time and the President of the hotel association, that we needed to do something together to market our Island.
A month prior to this, the Hotel Associations and Government, on both sides, (French and Dutch,) met on the French side, to discuss using the St. Martin Office in New York together - sharing it. So this was a likely lead into marketing together.
Q. When was the S.M.A.R.T. Contract actually signed?
A. We signed in the S.M.A.R.T. contract in 1999, on the same day as the Treaty of Concordia. (this treaty was signed at a marble monument on Concordia hill. It was between the Dutch and the French side, stating that you can pass from one side of the Island to the next, freely without being checked).
So the S.M.A.R.T. contract was signed at that monument, in order to bring our region, plus St Martin together as a whole.
Q. Why did you choose the CHA to contract with you?
CHA was contracted to do this with us because we needed a very professional team to ensure that everything went smoothly. The CHA were the best, especially with the CHA Marketplace and their ability to put appointments together. We felt secure that as an association, the CHA would be our number one choice.
So the contract was signed and last year in April, we worked to have this conference with the Trade Show, but on the CHA side, the 2 people helping me were unavailable due to ill health. As a coincidence, there was another trade show at the same time, so it was postponed until this year. So I have had a year and a half talking and preparing. I am very excited that in the next 16 weeks, it is actually going to happen.
Q. This is to be the first annual event?
A. It will be the first annual event, so we are giving it all of our energy because the first year is so important for a trade show like this. You need to set precedence for the following year.
Q. What kind of a turn out are you expecting?
I am hoping for a fair turnout, but I`m not going to be over-anxious. I am doing a road-show myself with Caribbean Sky alliance. This is being sponsored by Liat, Winair and Air Caraibes. I will be going from Island to Island with the media, calling at press conferences and all hotel associations to let them know what is going on and that it is important to see them there.
Q. Which global market are you targeting with this campaign?
A. The North-Eastern Islands. These include: Anguilla, Antigua, Barbuda, Barthelemy, St. Eustatius, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Maarten and St. Martin.
Q. What has the response been so far?
A. The response has been positive. I have 10 more Islands to visit and I will get that done. With the new-year approaching, I started in January and I have visited four Islands so far.
Q. What is your current online situation?
A. The St Martin Hospitality Trade Association, SHTA has gone ahead and formed a website and all of our members of SHTA are already on this website. This can be found at www.shta.com
and the Sint Maarten website is at www.st-maarten.com
. All the properties can be seen on these and both of the sites connect to each other.
Q. Regarding St Maarten, how much expenditure goes online?
A. We have an added value website, which is a very unique promotional piece.
During my Presidency, we signed with Knight Ridder. For every advert that we sell to a store, a percentage of that comes back to us as advertising space in one of their publications. They have nineteen newspapers. We used five and we were able to place adverts for St. Maarten in those five newspapers, plus, they gave us the added value of setting up the website for us.
Q. Are you pleased with the websites?
A. We are, but when you see other websites you can always improve and do more. We are always looking to change. We just made some improvements to the St-Maarten website, adding a link to S.M.A.R.T. and the CHA site. Although it is a good website, we could always improve.