The following is the full address by Commissioner Roy Marlin, delivered at the SHTA's Annual General Meeting on Thursday evening April 3rd 2008 at the Sonesta Great Bay Beach Hotel.
I believe this is the first time since taking the responsibility as Commissioner of Tourism that I have had the opportunity to address the general membership of the SHTA. While requested to address this distinguished gathering of businessmen at the annual general membership meeting, the question that came to mind was, what would be a reality topic that can trigger a discussion among the membership in terms of tourism. Should I just paint a nice picture of the future of tourism of all the positive that happened on St. Maarten during the past years or go into the success of the recent season. Issues such as the new Jet Blue flight, which have triggered competitive airfares coming out of New York, thus increasing airlift. The building boom, the effects of the Westin resort, the expansion of Pelican time share units, or the success of the Aqua Marina development, the new airport or the ongoing harbor expansion plans or should the SHTA membership and the business community on St. Maarten be told about the tourism threats we are facing as a small island nation. I chose the latter as this will give us the opportunity to start to prepare for the eventualities that are coming at us head on like a steam train.
Price of oil waivering at US 110,-- per barrel. As a small island no opportunities like larger countries to piggy back ride on nuclear energy systems, large windparks, or production of alternative energy by geothermal energy.
Do we have any other choice than to produce our electricity with fuel. Wind energy is an alternative, burning of garbage and transforming this into energy is also another alternative. Fact is that these two options when introduced on St. Maarten will only suffice to supply maybe 20% of the total electricity needs of St. Maarten.
We will remain dependent on the production of the most important energy source for the island through the use of fuels, whether we like it or not.
The price of fuel will definitely continue to have an impact on the cost of doing business on St. Maarten. With high fuel cost and this cost not projected to go down in the near future the only way to manage this cost factor is for businesses to carefully look at their overall operations and were possible implement measures that can help reducing the cost of electricity in their business.
We drive up Frontstreet and every store has its doors wide open. Sometimes you want to imagine that Frontstreet is airconditioned. Changes such as implementing automatic sliding doors that would assist in keeping the buildings cool from inside would be an alternative to curb the rising cost of electricity.
Installation of energy savings lights instead of high halogen light bulbs can be another alternative. If we don