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Chinese delegation impressed with island’s ‘beauty, ethnicity’

page9c111MARIGOT--“The competitive nature of the global market place demands that we act global and think global. We must sell our assets of stability, ease of access and ease of doing business.”

Those were some of the remarks made by Founder and CEO of Invest Caribbean Now (ICN), Felicia Persaud, in her keynote address at Friday’s exclusive invitation-only conference in the Chamber of Commerce on the theme “Investing in St. Martin’s Tourism Product”.

“Partnerships, collaborations, linkages, networking…that’s the key to the success of businesses, economies, governments, because from where I sit there is no way that any government on any island is smart enough to do it alone,” she added. “Private and public partnerships that work together can take this island forward.”

New York-based ICN partnered with the St. Martin Tourism Office and the Port of St. Martin to bring over 40 executives, all women, from assorted Beijing companies to St. Martin. The purpose was to pitch to the Chinese delegation not only the delights of the destination but also the investment opportunities and tax incentives.

The group had attended the UN Summit in New York prior to the St. Martin visit.

Major projects open to investors are the expansion of port services, the Marigot Bay Development Project and other tourism-related opportunities that fall within the Marigot Revitalisation project. 

The conference came about as a result of St. Martin Tourism Office’s invitation to Beijing last year by the World Cities Tourism Federation (WCTF), that connection being made by Invest Caribbean Now.

ICN specialises in matching high-end investors to key opportunities in Caribbean destinations. It was the first time the private sector investment agency had brought its annual conference to St. Martin from New York where in 2012 the island was the focus of the conference.

Earlier, speakers included Vice-President of the Collectivité Wendel Cocks, Vice-Chairman and Secretary of China Women’s Development Foundation, Qin Guo Ying and the Executive President of China Women Tourism Committee, Xiong Yumei.

St. Martin Tourism Office President Jeanne Rogers-Vanterpool in her remarks drew attention to the office’s new “smile at life” communication campaign, showing the video clip, and outlined some of the key advantages of St. Martin’s attractive fiscal policies and tax rules to encourage investment.

A panel discussion on Chinese outbound tourism followed the speeches with three panellists participating. The session was moderated by Executive Director of the Sino-American Friendship Association, Li Li.

The discussion produced some interesting statistics about Chinese travellers, especially the women.

Among 107 million outbound tourists in 2014, 17 per cent more female tourists travelled abroad than men. In the first half of 2015, 80 per cent of customers planning an outbound trip were women, the consumption environment of the destination dictating their choice, in other words personal shopping determined which destination to choose.

Female tourists were not only satisfied by shopping, however. They also liked spas, yoga and spa tours, amusement parks, local cuisine, movies, sightseeing and cultural tours.

Figures show that 71.9 per cent of female tourists preferred planned travel while 28.1 per cent travelled without a plan. They are willing to spend but prefer to stick to a budget.

One study shows women with extra disposable income are most likely to spend it on tourism. This accounts for 28.23 per cent of their budget, higher than on health care, cultural education, beauty, entertainment, and shopping.

Outbound trip decisions made by females were tallied at 70 per cent; 70 per cent travel one to two times abroad while younger female tourists travel two to three times abroad. Female tourists are becoming increasingly independent with 50 per cent making the travel choice and paying the bills.

The conference got off to an impressive start Thursday evening with a welcome dinner at Villa Mes Amis in Lowlands. An island tour for the group had been planned for Friday afternoon followed by dinner that evening. The conference ended with an exchange of gifts.

While it was too early to get a sense of any investment feedback, Li Li indicated the women CEOs especially liked the “ocean views, beauty, the villa, and are keen to come back with their families.”

Felicia Persaud concurred: “They liked the beauty of the island and the people. As soon as they got off the plane they were taking photos. They rarely see people of different cultures and ethnicities so they were amazed by that. Unfortunately the trip was very short because it was tied in to the UN Summit. Now we have to develop the link between China, New York and St. Martin.”

Also attending the conference were Senator Guillaume Arnell and Vice-Presidents Ramona Connor and Rosette Gumbs-Lake, as well as Territorial Councillors and other prominent persons from the French side.

When asked for her reaction to the conference Vice-President of the Economic, Social and Cultural Council, Bernadette Davis said: “This is a very promising initiative. Jeanne said it well - you can’t develop tourism unless you have an investment programme. I believe in jumping on the train before it leaves the station. It’s harder when the train has left. Let’s be honest, China is the next upcoming economic giant.”

Orange Alert - elevated at 'Kick 'em Jenny' in Grenada

ST GEORGE’S, Grenada (CMC)--An increase in seismic activities at the submarine volcano "Kick ‘m Jenny" on Thursday morning, has prompted the National Emergency Council to meet with a team from the University of the West Indies(UWI) seismic unit in Trinidad and Tobago.

  "We were informed through the official channel about the increase activities at Kick ‘m Jenny and like we did early we again call on all marine interest to observe the no exclusion zone of five kilometres around the summit of the volcano," said Coordinator of the National Disaster Management Agency, Terrence Walters. He promised that a detailed statement will be issued following the meeting.

  On Thursday, the UWI seismic unit posted an advisory informing the public that it has changed the alert level of the volcano from yellow to orange, stating that at 3:00am (local time) a strong continuous signal was observed on instruments monitoring the submarine volcano.

  "Signs of elevated seismicity (earthquakes) began on 11th July and continue to present," said the advisory. It further explained that for the period since the 11th July a total of more than 200 micro and small earthquakes of varying magnitudes have been recorded, with the largest, prior to the strong signal, less than 3.0.

  "There have also been observations from divers of degassing occurring off the west coast of Grenada in the Moliniere Sculpture Park area. This activity is being closely monitored by The UWI-SRC and further updates would be issued as more information becomes available," the advisory stated.

  An alert orange mean highly elevated level of seismic activity or other unusual activity. This means that an eruption may begin with less than twenty-four hours notice.

  The seismic unit says all regional governments will be alerted through Disaster Coordinators. The release added that local radio stations in Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Barbados and Trinidad have been placed on alert.

  In addition, all shipping are required to stay outside the first exclusion zone that is 1.5km from the summit and non-essential shipping such as pleasure craft should stay 5km clear of the summit.

  Since the rumbling at Kick ‘m Jenny telecommunications service in Grenada has being affected with only the FLOW network apparently operating.

Zero tolerance for illegal guns to rise

page3a111PHILIPSBURG--Intensifying the zero tolerance strategy against illegal gun possession was one of the measures discussed when representatives of the Prosecutor’s Office and members of the Police Force held an urgent meeting on the recent increase in robberies and other gun-related crimes.

In a joint press release on Friday, the police and Prosecutor’s Office said they were working on additional joint measures that were expected to be executed “as soon as possible.”

Parties expressed concern during the meeting about the incident on Thursday in which armed bandits wearing bulletproof vests shot at police responding to a home invasion on Poinsettia Road in Betty’s Estate and the shooting of Police Bike Patrol leader Officer Gamali “Benji” Benjamin, who was gunned down responding to a robbery on Front Street on August 5.

Benjamin died at St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) three days later and was the first officer in St Maarten to be killed in the line of duty.

Parties said in a joint press release that the increase in gun crimes “cannot be tolerated” and “every effort needs to be made to protect the people of St. Maarten.”

Present at Friday’s meeting were Chief Prosecutor Ton Maan and Police Chief Peter de Witte, amongst other persons. The meeting was held at the Philipsburg police station.

Marriage problems of the Kingdom focus of debate

AMSTERDAM--A forced marriage, a marriage of convenience, a one-parent family or a combined family with children of different fathers: These were some of the terms used to describe the difficult aspects of the relations within the Dutch Kingdom during a debate on Friday.

The debate, which was organised by InterExpo and producer/debate leader Tanja Fraai as the last event of the 20th Trade Mission in Amsterdam, served to evaluate the new constitutional relations that went into effect on October 10, 2010.

Representatives of the governments and private sector of the Dutch Caribbean took part in the debate, as did Member of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament André Bosman of the liberal democratic VVD party and host of the debate Chairman of the Second Chamber’s Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations Jeroen Recourt, the only Dutch politicians who were present.

Recourt painted a picture wherein the countries in the Kingdom are having relational issues and challenged the audience to give their view. Bosman described the relations as a forced marriage in which partners are trying to make the best of it. This kind of relationship requires strict agreements to which the partners have to stick, he said.

President of the Aruba Parliament Marisol Lopez-Tromp spoke of a combined family. “Partners are divorced and have remarried. There are discussions about alimony and visiting arrangements. The partner who pays assumes that by doing so the visiting arrangement is automatically secured. But that isn’t always the case,” she said.  

Saba student and member of the Kingdom Youth Parliament Nataly Linzey portrayed a marriage wherein partners have separated and the children have to choose whether they want to live with their mother or father.

Curaçao lawyer Karel Frielink used the term one-parent family, with the Netherlands as parent and the Dutch Caribbean islands as children.

Chamber of Commerce of St. Eustatius and Saba Vice-President Wolfgang Tooten said: “The Netherlands is a country of many rules, but in Saba we need less red tape. If this were my marriage, my wife would have filed for divorce if I had introduced all these rules.”

Chamber of Commerce of St. Eustatius and Saba President Koos Sneek said he hoped the current marriage of convenience between St. Eustatius and the Netherlands would become a marriage based on love. “I give the relation a 5.5, but I don’t want to divorce. It is a fact that St. Eustatius didn’t choose for this relation as a public entity.”

Sneek also said the Netherlands was co-responsible for the political instability in St. Eustatius. He said the political parties at the time had been blamed for the Dutch measures such as the implementation of the new tax system, as a result of which there are now five political parties.

Director of the Cabinet of the St. Maarten Minister Plenipotentiary in The Hague Perry Geerlings was critical of the Dutch Government’s attitude, which he said lacked comprehension and knowledge of the islands. “If we are welcome in the Kingdom, it doesn’t show it,” he said.

According to Geerlings, the Netherlands pretended to know all, but in fact didn’t do so well in managing the Caribbean Netherlands islands Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba.

“Five years ago a Dutch politician told me he found it astonishing that St. Maarten was not able to manage a little rock in the sea. I recently met this same man and asked him how things were going with Saba. We are accused that we are unable to manage a rock in the sea, but the Netherlands also is not able to manage Saba or St. Eustatius,” he said.

Bonaire Island Governor Edison Rijna agreed that Dutch civil servants too often were seeing things from a Dutch perspective in their dealings with the islands and did not listen enough to local government representatives and experts on the islands.

Reflecting on the two-hour discussion, Recourt concluded that that there was little trust and comprehension within the Kingdom, but that a divorce was not happening for now.

Unity in Diversity is last act of Kingdom’s bicentennial

page4a111AMSTERDAM--A successful celebration involving all parts of the Kingdom with the emphasis on doing things together, sharing the past and the future: On the eve of the final event titled Unity in Diversity, Chairperson of the National Committee for the Bicentennial of the Dutch Kingdom Ank Bijleveld-Schouten looked back on a positive celebration that lasted two years and covered six large public events.

“Our goal was a celebration not only for big shots, but for everyone – commemorating 200 years of the Kingdom together,” Bijleveld-Schouten said at a press conference in Amsterdam on Friday, one day before the final event at Carré Theatre which will be attended by King Willem-Alexander, Queen Máxima, Princess Beatrix and other members of the royal family.

“Having a Kingdom requires maintenance. It is important to keep working on this together and to observe our achievements,” said Bijleveld-Schouten, representative of the King for the province Overijssel and a former State Secretary of Kingdom Relations who was involved in the process to dismantle the country the Netherlands Antilles and to establish the new countries Curaçao and St. Maarten.

The six events that were organised in the past two years, from December 2013 to September 2015, were centred on a specific theme relating to the Kingdom. Democracy was a recurring element in the celebration. Saturday’s event in Amsterdam, the final event, is Unity in Diversity, “With room to be different and still be together.”

The Prime Ministers and Governors of the Dutch Caribbean have been invited to the final event on Saturday. Kingdom Youth Parliament Chairperson Marifer Aguirre Broca of Aruba will be sharing her dream for the Kingdom when she addresses the audience at Carré. “We want to demonstrate that we are doing this together, that we give attention to one another,” said Bijleveld-Schouten.

The formal part at Carré will be succeeded by a large outdoor event on the Amstel River where more than 30 artistes will be performing, including Izaline Calister from Curaçao. The show will be broadcast live on NOS and can be seen on the islands via BVN.

The Dutch Government and private sector organisations invested two million euros and 1.5 million euros respectively in the six events that have been organised in the past two years.

The Committee made sure that sufficient attention was dedicated to the Caribbean part of the Kingdom. The Kingdom Youth Parliament took place in St. Maarten in May 2014. Princess Beatrix gladly accepted the National Committee’s invitation to be present at this three-day debate in which 50 youngsters from throughout the Kingdom participated.

Also a booklet with the time-line of 200 years Kingdom was distributed among all primary schools in St. Maarten, as well as the other Dutch Caribbean islands. The booklet was published in the four languages of the islands: Dutch, English, Papiamentu and Papiamento. Bijleveld-Schouten said on Friday that it always struck her that children in the Dutch Caribbean knew much more about the Kingdom than their peers in the Netherlands.

She said it was important to talk about the Kingdom, its democracy, fundamental rights, and what it meant to people. She said this was not easy to achieve with such a large group. The Kingdom Youth Parliament helped to facilitate this. She said all aspects of the Kingdom had been part of the commemoration: “We didn’t conceal the darker sides of our Kingdom, such as slavery. You have to name that part of our shared history.”

Asked about the growing tensions between the Netherlands and the Caribbean part of the Kingdom, Bijleveld-Schouten said it was essential to keep an open mind and to talk with each other on a regular basis, to discuss the norms and values, but also the many colours in the Kingdom. She added that the National Committee had no political role.  

Not everyone in the Netherlands was aware of the bicentennial celebrations, showed a survey by the bureau Ipsos, carried out on the request of Dutch public broadcaster NOS. Some 45 per cent of the interviewees indicated that they did not know about the anniversary of the Kingdom and the related activities. Only six per cent said they had taken part actively in one of the celebrations held in the some 200 municipalities in the Netherlands in the past two years.

Bijleveld-Schouten did not seem too worried by the figures: “This means that 55 per cent did know about 200 years Kingdom.”

She presented the results of another survey carried out on behalf of the Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations. This survey showed that at the start of the bicentenary celebrations in December 2013, 41 per cent of the public knew that the Kingdom was celebrating its 200th anniversary. This percentage increased to 50 per cent in the week before the final event this Saturday.

Some 23 per cent indicated that they had attended one of the smaller events organised throughout the Netherlands in the past two years, while 24 per cent watched the official opening in Scheveningen near The Hague in December 2013.

A large part of the people who were interviewed for the survey considered it important that attention was paid to democratic fundamental rights (80 per cent), unity (78 per cent), history (75 per cent), the future of the Kingdom (64 per cent) and orientation abroad (60 per cent) during the celebration of 200 years of the Kingdom.

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