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FCCA conference in Merida, Mexico

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - The COCI attended the FCCA conference in Merida held from October 24th - 28th, and the feedback received from the attending cruise lines and presenters was extremely positive. During the various discussions it was mentioned that St. Maarten should use this as an opportunity to refresh its business, product, service and brand.

St. Maarten as a destination is very important to each cruise-line. As the ships are being made larger, which enable them to bring more passengers to our shore. It is crucial that the business community of St. Maarten use this opportunity to better their service and product. What cruise passengers are now looking for is new and exciting shore excursions. They want to touch, feel and immerse themselves into our culture. They want to take part in vacation worthy activities on the island that they can take pictures of and share with their friends and loved ones. Which in turn will peak their interest in wanting to come experience the island for themselves. The younger cruise passengers are more interested in the experience and the excitement.

Other pointers mentioned was the importance of businesses incorporating the wearing of uniform and name tags by their team members. Businesses must be clear on their brand, and represent it with pride. The guest want to feel that going on your tour or walking into your business, was the best choice they made on their vacation.

In order to get to this point, we suggest that business owners empower their team members, to innovate, and challenge conventional wisdom and the current way of doing business. We also would like to encourage businesses to share the results of successes with the chamber in order for us to share with other business owners, because together we are selling St. Maarten as a strong brand. We must learn from each other successes and failures in order for us to move forward with the best practices that works for us.

In one of the workshops, the topic of discussion was the importance of developing a clear and simple hurricane plan that everyone on the island is aware of. In this plan the key areas that should be focused on before any ship can return to the port are:

1. Ensure the water to and from the port of entry is free from debris. 2. Ensure that the island is safe to welcome guest. Have police presence, but not too much as that also send a message that the island is not safe. The use of undercover police would be a great substitute.

3. Sufficient tour operators available and in place. 4. Water activities available and in place. 5. Ensure all roads are cleared and cleaned to the popular beaches and landmarks areas.

6. Beach should be cleaned, food and beverage area open.

7. Clean and proper functioning portable or stationary restrooms for guest.

8. Island wide hurricane drills to test the processes to ensure they work according to plan and adjust where needed.

This conference was also attended by the Minister of TEATT and delegation, Port of St. Maarten, Tourist Office, Members of the Airport Taxi Association, SMCAA and maritime and the rain forest group.

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