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Island News

Resorts optimistic over 2017 bookings

ConferenceCenter GrandBallroomThere was a general sense of optimism from St.  Maarten/St. Martin hotels represented at  Caribbean Travel Marketplace held this  week in Atlantis, Paradise Island, in the Bahamas. 

The “upbeatness” stemmed from gold meetings with existing tour operators that sell the vacations to the destination and new players on the scene.Ricardo Perez, General Manager of Oyster Bay Beach Resort, said response to his property and the destination has been very positive both with existing partners and new players. He has made significant inroads with a new tour operator from Argentina that sells quite a number of packages to St. Barths.

Having Oyster Bay Beach Resort work with this tour operator will be a huge plus, said Perez. “They are already passing through Oyster Bay, so it makes sense for me to look into stay at my resort either before or after a trip to St. Barths,” he said.

Jorge Diaz-Granados, marketing director at Princess Heights, reported a “slower time” on the Marketplace floor due to less scheduled appointments. He and his team persevered by drumming up their own business. The slow appointments were tagged to possible preference given to bigger markets and destinations by tour operators. Both St. Maarten Tourist Bureau and St. Martin Tourism Office along with several resorts promoted the upcoming St. Maarten/ St. Martin Annual Regional Tradeshow (SMART) slated for June.

Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort recognized by partner Expedia

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Expedia, a leading owner and operator of international global online travel brands, named Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort, Casino and Spa the 2016 Top Partner of the Year in recognition of outstanding performance and partnership in St. Maarten.

“We are thrilled to have Expedia acknowledge Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort for outstanding hospitality and this esteemed award will be shared with our staff, recognising their dedication and hard work,” stated Director of Business Development Eliska Hesova.

The annual Expedia partner appreciation event was held in The Bahamas on January 30, Sonesta team members were there to receive the award, including Hesova; Revenue Director Karlijn Van Eck; Director of Sales Kevin Matier, President Saro Spadaro and Chief Executive Officer Jerry Weinberg.

Port St. Maarten expects an increase in cruise numbers

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Port St. Maarten continues to work to increase destination cruise numbers after a dip in 2016. “Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) will increase its number of calls to the destination in 2017 when compared to 2016. It is expected to make 39 port calls bringing 101,007 passengers to the destination. NCL made 29 calls for 2016, bringing in 82,316 passengers,” the harbour announced in a press release last week. NCL has three new ships on order to be delivered 2017-2019. The first ship is Norwegian Joy , which will be able to carry 4,200 passengers and is scheduled to be delivered in Summer 2017. This vessel has been built specifically for the Chinese market. Norwegian Bliss , 4,200 passengers, will be delivered in Spring 2018; and Breakaway Plus class ship, 4,200 passengers, is to be delivered in the Autumn of 2019. Norwegian Cruise Lines Holding Ltd. is a leading global cruise company which operates the Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises brands.

Offshore Passage Opportunities Sponsors Lottery Division

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St. Maarten Heineken Regatta Organizers are happy to announce a new initiative to help grow a long neglected segment of the Caribbean regatta competitors; the ex-racing, now live-aboard, cruiser. With sponsorship from Hank Schmitt, founder of “Offshore Passage Opportunities”, the Lottery Division has plans to grow from one to three starting guns. The Lottery Class will get their own Welcome Party on Thursday March 2nd, 2017, hosted by the restaurants at the Simpson Bay Market across the bridge from the Sint Maarten Yacht Club.

According to the new Sponsor of the Lottery Division, Hank Schmitt, the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta has a lot of potential to grow by doubling and tripling the amount of boats entered in the Lottery Class. He states: “All the race boats are already on the starting line for this biggest of all Warm Water Regattas. Many cruising sailors need that little bit of encouragement to dust off old skills and sail around the course.  Knowing they don’t have to strip the boat, flake sails nor bulk up with crew, is a huge plus.”

Regatta organizers welcome full time cruisers to sign up for the Lottery Division, have some good fun and competition on the water and enjoy the parties each night. This specific class doesn’t require a rating certificate. Ratings are determined every day by the Race Committee and may change each day based on the previous day’s finish. The Lottery Division builds on the regatta’s theme of “Serious Fun” and this diverse fleet of boats welcomes everyone that loves to be part of the Regatta, but doesn’t take the racing too seriously.

Exclusively for the Lottery Class competitors, a Welcome Party will be hosted by the restaurants on Simpson Bay Market on Thursday the 2nd of March, 2017. The venue is easily accessible by foot from the Sint Maarten Yacht Club, as well as by dinghy and water taxi. Starting at 5pm, this get-to-gather will end perfectly on time to continue at the Gill Commodore’s Cup Welcome Party at Port de Plaisance.

Michelle van der Werff, Regatta Director, is pleased to see companies like Schmitt’s stepping up the plate and supporting the event. “It’s great to see this new concept of sponsoring individual divisions. We rely heavily on our Sponsors and with new sustainable partnerships like these, we can actually attract more boats, increase the quality of racing, and build on close relationships with our competitors.”

Tourism Office attends Travel & Cruise Show

stmartintoursimlogo Representatives from St. Martin Tourism Office and Le Beach Hotel recently attended the 4th edition of the Guadeloupe Travel and Cruise Show organized by Penchard Voyages. The event was held at the World Trade Center in Jarry.

During four days, more than 5,000 visitors came to meet the 40 exhibitors distributed over 3000 m2 of space to discover or rediscover Caribbean travel ideas. It was also an opportunity to reserve attractive packages, such as the ones offered by the Penchard Agency for Christmas and New Year’s Eve in St. Martin. Tourism office representatives spent their time guiding and advising future tourists by promoting all the activities the island has to offer. Visitors coming and going at the St. Martin booth were greeted by a local festive musical ambiance and the new video campaign launched by the tourism office in September 2015, “Smile at life.”

The image of St. Martin is projected as a paradise where it is easy to be entertained, to go shopping and to enjoy wonderful traditional dishes, the tourism office noted in its release. When it comes to shopping, however, the Guadeloupians indicated that prices charged on the island on the whole are not as attractive as before.The Tourism Office’s Grégoire Dumel, Head of the Local and Regional market, said there were less visitors this year compared to last year.

“This was due to the date selected in December,” he explained. “We discussed with the organisers to have this show held in November like it used to be in the first editions. The event is even more important since cruising heavily impacts the popular destinations in the Caribbean which are St. Maarten, the Dominican Republic and Martinique. Because of this, the tourism office will continue its efforts in this key sector of the tourism economy.”

Get ready for the 37th St. Maarten Heineken Regatta!

Putting on the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta is like staging a play. The leading roles are cast, the award-winning scenery and backdrops already in place and excitement amongst our star studded audience (who actively participate) is growing. Let’s hope the 2017 edition is another blockbuster hit for the largest warm water regatta in the World.