New York City/Marigot – Saint Martin’s Commissioner of Tourism, Jeanne Rogers-Vanterpool had the privilege of being part of a very exclusive list of guests at a dinner hosted by the Vice President of the WTCF at the Harvard Club in New York during Caribbean Week.
The invitation came from the Vice President of the World Tourism Cities Federation as part of efforts by the WTCF to expand its membership to destinations that the Chinese based organization sees as strong potential tourism destinations for their nationals.
The World Tourism Cities Federation (WTCF) is the first international tourism organization, which takes cities as its focus in the world. It is a non-profit, non-governmental organization voluntarily formed by tourism cities and tourism-related organizations of various countries and regions of the world. Under the core idea of Better City Life Through Tourism, WTCF aims at promoting the development of the tourism industry throughout the world. At present, 107 world-renowned tourism cities and organizations have joined the Federation.
Mrs. Rogers-Vanterpool, who was invited as President of the Tourism Office and Commissioner in charge of Tourism, while at the dinner presented Saint-Martin’s tourism sector, especially, its successful high-end sector, its potential as a hub for island hopping and the investment opportunities that are open to project developers. She also outlined the government’s tourism development plan and the growth philosophy behind the plan during a private discussion with Mr. Pengcheng Cao, vice-chairman of the Beijing Municipal Commission of Tourism Development and Vice President of the World Tourism Cities Federation.
During his remarks at dinner, the Vice Chairman noted that the Caribbean region holds a good potential for Chinese tourism but that information about the region was very limited. A greater collaboration between places like Saint-Martin and other countries and China he said could remedy that situation despite of the lengthy travel time between the two destinations. Mr. Cao who has visited the region said that the beauty of the Caribbean, especially its waters and white sand beaches would appeal to Chinese travelers. China, he noted had already invested over 1.3 billion in tourism projects in the Caribbean in 2013 and expected to exceed that amount in 2014.
This same idea of the Caribbean’s potential as a primary destination for the Chinese travelers was echoed at the Invest Caribbean Now (ICN) hosted by Hard Beat Communications that the Tourism Office President attended the next day. During a panel discussion on “Global Trends and the Caribbean” which took place before an audience of more than 150 investors, project developers and financiers from the US, Canada and the Caribbean, panelists said that more than 98 million Chinese traveled outside China on vacation in 2013 spending some $129 billion in the various destinations during that same period. The Vice Chairman of the Tourism Region of Beijing said that the number of Chinese traveling outside China is expected to grow by some 200 million by 2020.
During the Harvard Club dinner, to which government representatives of two other Caribbean countries were invited, Mrs. Rogers-Vanterpool was presented by Mr. Cao with an invitation for Marigot to join the WTCF.
The President of the Saint-Martin Tourism office said, in an invited comment, that the opportunities presented by the dinner with the Beijing Regional Tourism vice chair and the Invest Caribbean Now Conference were part of a continuing effort by the Tourism Office to open new markets. “Despite the issues of long travel periods that would make travel to the Caribbean prohibitive the Chinese are already beginning to arrive in the Caribbean. Their government has invested more than one billion dollars in hotel construction because of the fact they have a particular vision of the types of amenities they want. With the potential of the Chinese market and the fact that they are willing to work with us to bring those travelers to our shore we would be negligent to not listen to what they have to say and determine how we can take advantage of a potential market that will be more the 200 million strong in the next few years.”
Rogers-Vanterpool explained that the new philosophy behind the Tourism Office’s marketing strategy is to be innovative in order to attract visitors. This innovation includes efforts to create a multi-island destination to attract visitors from Sweden and highlighting specifics and unique characteristics about Saint-Martin that might appeal to the South American Market. “We have a great product and our location and modern communication and transportation network offers us the opportunity to do more than some of our neighbors. As we represent Saint-Martin our job is to strategize about how to use those assets to open new markets and opportunities.”