Roy Marlin St. MaartenSt. Maarten Tourist OfficeBy Melanie Reffes

The St. Maarten/St. Martin Annual Regional Tradeshow (SMART), held at the Sonesta Maho Beach Resort & Casino in St. Maarten in May, matched buyers, travel agents, wholesalers and on-line booking engines from the Caribbean, Canada, U.S. and Europe with suppliers from St. Maarten and the nearby islands of St. Barths, Saba, Anguilla, Antigua, British Virgin Islands, St. Kitts and Nevis. Organized by the St. Maarten Hospitality & Trade Association, Association des Hôteliers de St. Martin, St. Maarten Tourism Bureau and French-side Office de Tourisme, the 7th annual SMART hosted 148 delegates.

Lieutenant Governor Franklyn Richards said the tradeshow came at a time when serious challenges face the Caribbean tourism industry like rising fuel and food prices and a slowdown in the U.S. economy. “The Caribbean should be cautiously optimistic about its future as more islands begin to pay greater attention to tourism as the Caribbean’s basic industry.”

On the French side, Office de Tourisme President Daniel Gibbs launched the official website, www.st-martin.org, and announced improvements to the Marigot waterfront and the construction of a mega-yacht and cruise terminal.

A new website was also launched on the Dutch side – www.vacationstmaarten.com – which Tourism Director Regina LaBega said comes as the “Island repositions itself to attract more upscale-oriented travellers”. Tourism Commissioner Roy Marlin added both sides of the island are focused on drumming up more business during low season and keeping sales high during the winter season.

In hotel news: the 52-room Coral Beach Club facing Oyster Bay on the east coast is the newest luxury property to open on the Dutch side; Divi Little Bay Beach Resort announced plans to upgrade an additional 63 rooms bringing the total to 210 oceanfront suites when renovations are complete in December; Radisson St Martin Resort & Spa will open on August 29 on the French side.

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