PHILIPSBURG:--- The St. Maarten Tourist Bureau (STB) on Monday hosted an interactive and informative session today for its stakeholders and partners featuring presentations by St. Maarten’s marketing firms Spring O’Brien/MMGY Global, in the North American Market & Aviareps in the Benelux Market.
It was the first time in many years that the STB initiative such an exchange in order for invited stakeholders to hear directly about how the destination is being marketed. The gathering featured a broad cross-section of players in the hospitality field including hoteliers, the Chamber of Commerce, St. Maarten Hospitality & Trade Association, Port of St. Maarten and Princess Juliana International Airport.
Head of the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau Rolando Brison opened the event at Sonesta Great Bay and gave a general update on STB’s marketing efforts for the year thus far. Roy de Ridder of Aviareps then presented his firms results after the first year of promotional activities for St. Maarten in the Benelux market.
De Ridder used the opportunity to explain about the type of Dutch/European traveler that should be targeted, the fact that Aviareps spent most of the past year better acquainting St. Maarten in the Dutch market and will be now looking to capitalize on those efforts and translate them into conversions and bookings.
For the American market, Julie Questa of Spring O’Brien/MMGY Global presented broad examples of how they want to market St. Maarten in the US, focused around a campaign called “Visit the St. Maarten You Don’t Know.” She explained that while St. Maarten is known, it is not extremely well known, so the firm will play on that aspect and push St. Maarten as a truly unique, new product/destination.
She also stressed to the gathering that just 43% of US citizens are passport holders and how to cater to the traveling American which amounts to about 75 million people. How to specifically target these travelers is important since the figure of 43% renders moot any mass marketing efforts in the US.
Following the presentations, all stakeholders received the opportunity to ask question and offer suggestions and recommendations. Pledging to work together with the STB, these included, but were not limited to:
- Focus on creating cruise conversion strategies
- Using the marketing firms to disseminate stakeholder press releases.
- Place more focus on the low season
- Closer working relationship between STB, the firms, Harbor and Airport
- Using new technology such as Pixel to track and measure results
- Continued support for Trip Advisor and Expedia
- Tighter targets grouping for more effective marketing spend
- Better data and research
- Convincing those travelers (Dutch) going to Curacao to try St. Maarten as an alternative
- Using travel portals such as booking.com for marketing
- Ensuring that results can be measured.
Executive Board Member of the SHTA Ricardo Perez said he was: “Very thankful as a stakeholder to have been invited to the presentation. We commend the initiative since our expertise can assist in directing future policy and direction. Also the work done regarding branding can now be put into work by the professionals rather than having to start from scratch. We look forward to the next session where we can get into more detail planning.”
Brison concluded by thanking all stakeholders for their very active participation in the event, Sonesta Great Bay for hosting and the staff of STB for facilitating. He said cooperation across the board is the only way St. Maarten will remain competitive, mixed with innovation and “outside the box thinking on how we can best position our product for the benefit of all.”