PHILIPSBURG:--- Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation & Telecommunication (TEATT), the honorable Arthur Leo Lambriex, says increasing the resilience of the Tourism Industry and repositioning St. Maarten as a competitive tourism destination will be his focus over the next 100-days.
"My goal is to ensure that St. Maarten remains at the centre of the travel industry and rises once more to the top," said Lambriex. On Sunday, January 15, Lambriex issued a press release outlining the blueprint for his first 100 days in office.
He said the only way to protect St. Maarten's economy is to protect the tourism sector, which must be a priority. "That means asking the hard questions about things that are not as they should be"
According to Lambriex, the Ministry of TEATT must have a defensive approach to safeguard the tourism economy. "We cannot continue to attract Mega and even Giga Yachts to the island and squeeze them through the eye of a needle to get to our Marinas in the Simpson Bay lagoon. Already there is a high demand for our island to accommodate these larger-size yachts. Lambriex intends to work closely with SXM Harbour and the Simpson Bay Lagoon Authority SLAC to finalize the project for widening the bridge. He said he recognizes that we may not start the bridge widening project within the first hundred days, "but to achieve our objectives, we must make ambitious efforts."
Widening the Simpson Bay Bridge will attract even larger Yachts to the island, safeguard the Marine sector, and prevent further mishaps. He said, "We have to do more to protect the Marine Sector and Cruise Tourism.
However, Lambriex said the first steps must be to get a "handle" on rebuilding St. Maarten's Airport - Princess Juliana International.
He said, without pointing fingers, we must identify the challenges that have created delays in reconstruction. "It is unclear why the repairs to PJIA have taken longer than the actual construction of the Airport. Delays in rebuilding the Airport damages St. Maarten's ability to attract new investments necessary for increasing economic activity.
"I also recognize the hard work put into finalizing the project to rebuild the Philipsburg Marketplace. Since 2017, vendors have had to endure less-than-ideal conditions to earn a living. Therefore, I will be honoured to take the baton on the final leg to complete this project with the help of Royal Caribbean and Port St. Maarten.
The Minister also intends to solidify all plans for the 2023-24 Tourism Season post haste during his meetings with Major Cruise Lines. Minister Lambriex's first 100 days in office will include formalizing Agricultural and Trade Agreements between St. Maarten, St. Kitts & Nevis, and the Dominican Republic. Additional safety measures are also being worked on for the Simpson Bay, Causeway, and Philipsburg areas.
Minister Lambriex said he looks forward to working with the Minister of VROMI (Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment, and Infrastructure) on a clean-up and beautification plan for Philipsburg. "I believe that with collaborations from both Public and Private sector partners, we can polish up what we have and get a better idea of what we are working with and what is needed or not needed," said Lambriex.
He also plans to work with the Department of Civil Aviation, Shipping, and Maritime to expand St. Maarten's registration of aircraft and seagoing vessels, providing increased revenue for St. Maarten.
"The roadmap I have outlined with the help of my team and the support of the United People's Party is realistic and necessary. They will require dedication from everyone in the public and private sector, which should not be difficult to achieve considering we are all facing the challenges of a slowly rebounding economy and would like to see some improvements in that regard," said Lambriex.
Minister Lambriex said he would also seek an audience with the Minister of Justice to find ways in which TEATT can contribute to increasing security in the Philipsburg area, especially during periods when there is increased tourist presence. The traffic congestion and difficulty for tour busses to find adequate parking when returning guests from island tours is also an area of concern. Lambriex will work towards a short-term solution until a permanent solution is established. "If we can identify an area in Philipsburg for tour buses to stop before returning visitors to the cruise ships, we can maximize opportunities for them to patronize the local businesses," said Lambriex. He said, "This should increase passenger flow through our city centre, and businesses will have the opportunity to showcase their product and services."