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Largest-ever FCCA conference ends

~ Stakeholders leave with good impression ~

POINTE BLANCHE--The business-end of the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) Conference and Trade Show came to a close yesterday after another busy day's worth of networking, one-on-one meetings, exhibitions and discussion panels.

It was the largest conference in the event's history. Russell Daya of Disney Cruise Line said in his parting words that it was the most successful he ever had attended.

Unique to Thursday was the first-ever FCCA Open Day, where around 300 businesspeople came to see what the event was all about. Normally strictly a business-to-business event, the Open Day was meant to show attendees how the variety of cruise tourism stakeholders showcase products to industry partners.

Various attendees approached by The Daily Herald said that they were very impressed by the facilities, enjoyed the atmosphere, and got the chance to network – especially with stakeholders from other islands. One attendee commented that she appreciated the level of sharing knowledge, which she sometimes misses in the everyday St. Maarten business atmosphere.

Given the theme, the Trade Show doubled seamlessly as a business-to-consumer event for attendees interested in various destinations.

Over 1,200 cruise tourism stakeholders, more than had been expected – along with 100 cruise line Executives, Presidents and Chief Executive Officers – gathered for the business sessions, networking opportunities and insight into maximising the sector's impact, able to learn from key decision makers.

Destination St. Maarten/St. Martin was jointly showcased, in and outside of the conference: a joint pavilion represented the ports and tourism authorities of both sides of the island, and the closing party last night was held at Le Galion Beach.

The island apparently made a very good impression, as various delegates and two cruise line executives volunteered their praises on the local destination product and hospitality to The Daily Herald. The quality of the destination product and harbour in particular were also commended during workshops.

"Attendees must now return to their home countries, but a sense of success and achievement still lingers from their private, pre-selected one-on-one meetings with cruise executives and casual discussions during social functions that displayed St. Maarten's destination product, culture, gastronomy and engaging atmosphere that helped attendees and executives feel comfortable so they could talk freely and forge relationships," a St. Maarten Harbour Group of Companies (SHGC) press release read.

Delegates heard about what cruise lines really look for in shore excursions, products, services, infrastructure and destinations, information geared at helping them establish a clearer vision towards success. A strong focus was laid on product differentiation and branding, creating and delivering on customer experiences, infrastructure development, innovation, opening up to new markets, and taking global competition seriously.

SHGC Chief Executive Officer Mark Mingo addressed the audience twice as an industry expert during panel discussions. On the last day, he highlighted the importance of innovation, investing in infrastructure, sharing knowledge, as well as how he has approached harbour management, human resources and keeping in touch with key FCCA executives.

FCCA President Michele Paige, along with key cruise line Executives, Presidents, CEOs and island Ministers shared knowledge, debated and mingled with the delegates.

Today, various delegates will be taking part in complimentary tours.

Country gripped by lengthy power outage

PHILIPSBURG--Businesses and households country-wide were gripped by a lengthy power outage on Thursday that was said to have been caused by a problem with one or more generators of utilities company GEBE.

Lights went off throughout St. Maarten around 1:29pm and remained off until late in the afternoon when some districts started to receive power again. GEBE did not specify the cause of the problem in a press release issued late yesterday.

Some businesses that did not have generators were seen guiding customers with flashlights to view products and to secure sales for the day. In Philipsburg and other areas workers stood and sat outside stores, in some cases to beat the heat inside the stores. Some businesses shut their doors earlier than usual when it was clear that the electricity would not return before closing time.

Many persons commented on the length of the outage. Some persons said it was ironic that the country was gripped by an outage the day GEBE had announced its electricity-bill-relief programme.

In its late-evening release GEBE said an "interruption" had caused the entire Dutch St. Maarten to experience a total blackout. The utilities company said that after assessment of the problem, the gradual restoration process had started around 5:45pm and had been ongoing up to late last night. GEBE said full restoration had been estimated around 10:00pm if no further technical difficulties were encountered.

The Managing Board said GEBE engineers had been "working non-stop" at the Cay Bay power plant and substations to "rectify all issues" that had developed due to the outage. The company said a more detailed press release would be issued when a full assessment had been made. GEBE said it regretted the outage.

Man shot dead in Front Street shop

page1a123PHILIPSBURG--A man was shot dead inside the Most Requested Flex DVD store on Front Street around 4:00pm Thursday.

The victim, Etienne Leblanc of French Quarter, could be seen through the open door of the store, slumped over what appeared to be a fallen-over pile of boxes of some kind, next to a chair that had fallen on the floor. He appeared to be in his 20s.

Police, detectives and forensics officers were at scene, and a large part of Front Street was closed off as a crime scene. However, the shop's shutters could not be closed due to a wide-spread electricity failure, allowing members of the public a glimpse of the goings-on inside.

The owner of the store was seen accompanying police to a waiting car. It is believed he went to give a statement as a witness.

Bystanders stated that two men had entered the store and attempted to rob the owner, who is disabled. It was said that the owner's son arrived at that point and challenged the robbers, after which a fight started. In the process, a gun went off, fatally wounding one of the alleged robbers. The second alleged robber was seen to run away from the store.

The police were still busy with the investigation up to press time. "The investigation has just begun and it is still unclear as to exactly what took place, why, and who is responsible for this shooting," police spokesman Inspector Ricardo Henson stated in a press release late last night.

November bills to see GEBE general relief

PHILIPSBURG--Utilities company NV GEBE's General Relief programme is scheduled to take effect in electricity bills for the consumption period of September to October with the due date for payment in November, announced Romelio Maduro, Managing Board President and Chief Operations Officer, and Chief Financial Officer Rene Gartner via press release.

The programme is scheduled to run from October 2014 to March 2015, of which the due date for payment will be from November 2014 to April 2015. The relief will be applied to all residential and commercial electricity bills.

Rates for residential bills will be reduced by NAf. 0.05 per kilowatt-hour (kwh), while those of commercial bills will be reduced by NAf. 0.01 per kwh.

For added reference, one-kwh can power a TV for seven hours, a desktop computer for four hours, or an iron for 22 minutes.

SMMC fires Controller due to ‘irregularities’

CAY HILL--St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) has terminated the working agreement with its "Concern Controller" (financial controller) due to irregularities in the financial department as of Monday, October 6.

The controller had been working at SMMC for two and a half years. SMMC said Wednesday, that it is "working to correct the irregularities" uncovered and "has the assurance that this is possible.

"The institution will carry out a full investigation and examination of internal controls, and where necessary take steps to improve controls in the financial department. Financial operations at the St. Maarten Medical Center will continue to run as usual and will in no case, affect patient care."

SMMC said further inquiries relating to corporate financial concerns can be obtained from Director Kees Klarenbeek.

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