Published On: Wed, Jul 25th, 2018

STA Foundation board provides clarity on initial draft STA law

Valya Lake-Pantophlet - Chairman STA

~ STA Foundation responds to concerns on STA draft law  ~

Philipsburg — The Board of the STA foundation has taken note of the published concerns of the owners of the Oyster Bay Beach Resort, a resort represented by both the SHTA and SMTA, and is hereby offering clarity on the matter.

The present STA foundation was established in 2014 with the goal of executing tourism policy and destination marketing, thus basically duplicating the efforts of the Tourist Office.

After the appointment of the current board in 2017, the statutes were changed to no longer duplicate efforts of the Tourist Office, but to focus on establishing the Sint Maarten Tourism Authority (STA) as a financially independent governing body (ZBO) that once established would replace the Tourist Office as the destination marketing entity, while also focusing on raising the level of service and ensuring quality products and offerings to our guests. This task requires the introduction of a law that would govern the STA as an independent entity that would no longer be subject to lengthy bureaucratic procedures and would as a result ensure swift decision making.

The concerns expressed by the owners of Oyster Bay were thus not on the statutes of the STA Foundation but on the initial draft STA law.

The legislative process

Part of the legislative process to establishing the STA includes heavy stakeholder consultation. As a result of this, the draft was presented to stakeholders in a session on July 5, 2018, in which the published concerns were expressed by the spokesperson of both the SHTA and SMTA and the desire was then expressed that the wish from those stakeholders was for the STA to only focus on marketing the destination.

It was stressed by the Chairlady of the STA foundation, Valya Lake-Pantophlet that this was just an initial draft (i.e. nothing has been set in stone) and that the consultative process would continue with stakeholders until we end up with a draft law that has broad stakeholder support.

It was mutually agreed during the session that all stakeholders would submit their feedback and concerns in writing within one week, after which the draft would be tweaked and a follow up session would be organized. Unfortunately, we have so far only received feedback on the draft law from the Indian Merchants Association, who was not present at the stakeholder session. We would like to take the opportunity to thank the IMA for complying with our request and are still awaiting written feedback from the SHTA, SMTA, Small Properties Association, the Airport, the Harbor and the Marine Trades Association.

Proposed financing

As the intention is for the STA (as a ZBO) to be a self-sustainable body, not reliant on subsidies from the Government of Sint Maarten, there are several proposals suggested in the draft law. These include:

  • licensing of tourist operators;
  • taxes and fees levied for tourism operations (i.e. an increase in room tax, a tax paid by the guests through the resorts, of which the difference could then be earmarked to the STA);
  • 3% of the monthly revenues of Govt’ owned companies;
  • all sums of money received by the Board in the carrying out of its business;

These suggestions like all other elements of the draft law are to be discussed by all stakeholders, as part of the consultation rounds. Parts of the law that do not have the support of the stakeholders would then be omitted and the stakeholder consultative process would continue until a draft law is achieved that has full stakeholder support.

Unwavering commitment to the process

The STA Foundation is functioning without an approved budget for 2018. This also means that the Board members have been working for more than 6 months without having received monthly stipends, thus re-emphasizing our commitment to the establishment of this very crucial entity.

Because of the aforementioned, the Board of the STA foundation has been focusing its efforts on the draft law that would not only focus on marketing but on maintaining industry standards, thus improving service through continuous training and improving our product through quality controls.

The STA Foundation agrees that destination marketing should be at the forefront of the STA, but also believes that because of the heavy competition within the region, focus should also be placed on ensuring that our tourism product can back up our marketing efforts. Further discussions on this will be held in subsequent stakeholder sessions.

The STA Foundation remains focused and committed to completing the task at hand and reminds stakeholders that the intention is not to impose our wishes/vision on the industry stakeholders, but to collectively come to a draft law that has full stakeholder support.

The foundation also plans to discuss the way forward with the new Minister of TEATT.