St. Maarten in talks with Virgin

Virgin Atlantic Airways is expected to add a direct flight from Heathrow Airport in the United Kingdom (UK) to St. Maarten next year, according to Tourism and Economic Affairs Commissioner Theo Heyliger. Reports the Daily Herald

The commissioner, who recently returned from World Travel Market (WTM), disclosed the possible new flight aimed at further boosting the island`s presence in the UK market, a growing tourist base for the region.
The flight will be made on a 747 aircraft and the proposed route is UK to St. Maarten to another island stop (destination to be determined), then back to the UK.

While the island delegation was at WTM, meetings were held with the airline`s executives and with representatives of the Anguilla Tourist Office. Heyliger noted that with the growth of the UK tourist base, the need to market more aggressively was important. Therefore, teaming up with the French side and Anguilla, which already has a strong UK presence and a significant marketing budget, are being explored.

This flight has spinoff possibilities for the other neighbouring islands such as St. Barths and St. Kitts, Heyliger said.

In addition to meeting with the airline representatives, contact was made with various tour operators who are promoting the island to get a feel of how the island is being received by the British public.


Discussion with the South America-based tour operator dealing with the island was also held. The Brazilian market is showing signs of recovery, the commissioner stated. As such the possibility of a charter flight from the largest South American country is pending for January 2004.

The delegation, which included representatives of local hotels and Head of the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau Regina Labega, had meetings with two small luxury cruise lines based in the UK that are exploring the option of home porting somewhere in the Caribbean. One of the two ships will be making its inaugural call to St. Maarten in March 2004.

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