~ Ministers applaud efforts, encourage customary friendliness ~
POINTE BLANCHE--The 21st Annual Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) Cruise Conference and Trade Show commenced with yesterday's moving-in and registration of exhibitors, a session of sought-after one-on-one meetings at Port of St. Maarten's specially built conference facilities and an evening hospitality reception at The Westin St. Maarten Dawn Beach Resort and Spa.
The official trade show opening ceremony takes place this afternoon and that of the conference in the evening.
The conference will welcome more than 800 guests, including many high-level cruise executives, government leaders and industry experts. St. Maarten and St. Martin will showcase the island jointly during the conference. Both sides of the island have underscored the importance and the opportunity created by the conference to showcase what the island has to offer to tourists.
The FCCA said in its newsletter yesterday that the hosting of the Caribbean's largest cruise tourism conference and trade show "will reconfirm St. Maarten's commitment to maximising cruise tourism's economic impact."
Projecting a "conservative growth rate of 20 per cent, or 105 additional cruise ship calls, would mean an extra US $67 million per year directly contributed to St. Maarten's economy," stated the FCCA. "Plus, a 20 per cent increase in cruise tourism-impacted employment would represent 1,625 more jobs with US $32 million in wages."
The last FCCA conference to take place in St. Maarten in 2003 had a strong impact on the development of the cruise line industry on the island. Passenger arrivals rose 70 per cent between 2001 and 2005 to nearly 1.5 million. "These numbers extend far beyond the cruise pier; they impact the entire economy," said the FCCA.
In a special meeting held October 2, Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication Ted Richardson; Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports Affairs Patricia Lourens-Philip; Finance Minister Martinus Hassink; and Council of Ministers Secretary-General Cassandra Janssen were briefed on event preparation by St. Maarten Harbour Group of Companies (SHGC) Chief Executive Officer Mark Mingo, Supervisory Board member Renald Williams, Chief Financial Officer Ton van Kooten and FCCA Coordinating Team chairperson Ichel Moeslikan.
Mingo briefed the ministers on the work that had gone into the realisation of the needed infrastructure for such a large conference and catering to the needs of attendees, while ensuring safety and comfort in accordance with FCCA rules and regulations. They were assured that preparations, which started two years ago, were on schedule and that measures were in place to handle any possible calamity.
The FCCA Coordinating Team said it had involved local students to assist with the event and that the local business community had shown support through a variety of sponsorship efforts.
The ministers applauded the efforts to ensure the conference would be memorable, with a long-lasting impact on the economy, a SHGC press release said.
"As awareness of the importance of cruise tourism to our local economy should be present among everyone on the island, whether directly or indirectly involved, the council requests the population to welcome the visiting guests with our customary friendliness, which provides our island with the beloved name 'St. Maarten, the Friendly Island.'"
SHGC thanked the council for government's cooperation; in particular, the tourist office, police, security, immigration and protocol.
Invitations have been sent to local government officials and businesses. Business owners/managers are reminded that registration for the Open Day on Thursday, October 9, from 8:00am to 1:00pm, which gains attendees access to the trade floor of the conference, closes tomorrow, Wednesday, October 8, at 12:00pm. Select "FCCA Registration" on
www.portofstmaarten.com and follow the instructions provided.