POND ISLAND, Sint Maarten – Last Wednesday evening at the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) Platinum Associate Membership Advisory Council (PAMAC) opening reception at Roxxy Beach, Honorable Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport & Telecommunications (Ministry TEATT) Hon. Stuart Johnson, was recognized by the FCCA President Michele Paige for his tireless efforts towards the nation’s economic recovery over the past 12-months.
FCCA President Michele Paige gave a crystal cruise award of recognition to Honorable Minister of TEATT during her speech.
Paige said, “Minister Johnson has worked tirelessly with the industry over the past months since he took office close to one year now.”
She added, “The resilience of your island and the work you have done to rebuild back better is surely noticed.”
Minister Johnson after receiving the recognition for his hard-work to date as a minister stated, “Success in the Hospitality and in particular the Cruise Industry, particularly in the age of advanced technology, will depend on our ability to remain at the forefront of Information and our ability to move with industry trends and changes.”
Minister Johnson added, “This evening it is my distinct honour to welcome the members of the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association FCCA Platinum Associate Membership Advisory Council (PAMAC) to our beautiful island.”
He went on to say, “Since the devastation to St. Maarten caused by hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, this Government through the Ministry of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication, has made it a priority to increase the connection between crucial stakeholders internationally as well as locally, as we promote the vision of rebuilding a sustainable St. Maarten and in particular a viable tourism product.
“We are well aware of the competitive edge that for example, pricing will bring to our destination, and we are equally mindful of the need to match the price with quality of service. At the very minimum, our message to our local vendors in the hospitality industry continues to be always to strive to increase the level of service above cost.
“To achieve our strategic goal of sustainably redeveloping our country, this is an uphill battle. However, by viewing our challenge in a positive light, we see opportunities for recreating an even more uniquely beautiful and economically prosperous destination.”
Minister Johnson added, “Your presence here today signals your commitment and ours towards the solidifying of our relationships to achieve our mutual goals. With the long-term average annual growth rate for travel increasing, complemented by the demand by vacationers for culturally diverse destinations, we find ourselves in an age in the hospitality industry where the business as usual model simply will not work. Sea and Sand are not only available elsewhere, but in our case, there are places where they are more abundant. This forces us to rethink our approach to attracting visitors to the island.
“Your visit to the island as we host this prestigious event gives business leaders and managers in the cruise tourism and hospitality sectors a unique opportunity to garner vital industry knowledge and best practices which when implemented it will lead to long-term success.”
Minister Johnson minced no words in saying “At the end of this week’s breakout sessions, we will no doubt have insights into how we can address the negative impact of Globalization, and changes in market conditions, climate change and the lack of innovation, productivity and competitive culture.
“It will help us hopefully answer the question of how we can, as Caribbean destinations maintain a high level of competition amongst each other, and at the same time collaborate on innovations and finding solutions to many of our challenges.
“Addressing these challenges while at the same time ensuring a safe and secure environment in which visitors and residents can coexist remains a daunting task for governments throughout the Caribbean and the rest of the world.
“Equally important is our grasp of technology and how we can best integrate new innovations in communication while disseminating important destination information to prospective visitors. At the same time, we are ever mindful of our geographical location and the threat of disasters that impact our economies and threaten the lives of our people.
“Thankfully it is through the gathering of great minds such as the ones here this evening, great ideas are born. I believe that one of the advantages St. Maarten has had in the past was its vision from an early stage to create a dedicated Ministry of Tourism that drove policy development to stimulate economic activity.
“This national commitment to the industry gave us an advantage of dedicated focus on the development and improvement of our Cruise Industry, which has continued to be a key income generator for our country over the years.
“But it is not only in the economic development of our country that the Cruise Industry has been seen as vital. The industry players have invested millions of dollars in donations over the past thirty years as well as volunteering their time to participate in events such as coastal cleanup campaigns, partnering with schools on educational development of our children.
“The FCCA has contributed significantly to the social development of our island. Youth development is an area in which the organization plays a critical role. Each year our teenagers eagerly await the announcement of the FCCA’s Essay Competition. I hope that for the next few contests we will find more winners like 16-year-old Shannaz Horne of the Charlotte Brookson Academy who won first prize in the Senior Division and Tafari Prevoo Francisco of the Sister Regina Primary School who placed third in the Junior Division in 2018.
“We know challenges are being faced within the Cruise Industry, but with great challenges come great opportunities for growth and improvement. It’s time for extended cruise ship hours, permanent home porting facility, additional excursions and further opportunities for our people,” Johnson said.
“I, therefore, thank each and every one of you for taking the time to be here and seeing the importance of this gathering. I especially wish to thank the FCCA and PAMAC for giving us here in St. Maarten the opportunity to host this event,” said Johnson.
“Please enjoy our Hospitality and the friendliness of our welcoming and warm people. Be sure to sample some of our beautiful beaches and dive into a few of our famous dishes,” Minister of Tourism & Economic Affairs Hon. Stuart Johnson concluded.
PHOTO: L to R: Hon. Minister of Tourism & Economic Affairs Stuart Johnson receiving his award of recognition from FCCA President Michele Paige.