NEW YORK, USA -- St Maarten Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams' attendance at Caribbean Week meetings and events in New York last week was a resounding highlight for attendees, ministers and directors of tourism from other nations and journalists from across North America. Her presence and statements reaffirmed St Maarten's commitment to collaborating with the other nations of the Caribbean region on tourism and social issues.
Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams
"Tourism is a strong thread of the blanket that stretches across the Caribbean and is becoming more and more of a social development tool," the prime minister told reporters at a special briefing.
Wescot-Williams attended special sessions, ministerial meetings, awards ceremonies for travel writers and the annual Media Marketplace in which more than 130 journalists from around the world gathered to meet with Caribbean tourism officials and hoteliers.
Caribbean Week in New York is an annual week-long series of meetings and events, both public and private, in which the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) conducts its business discussing internal regional issues as well as promoting the region to the public in the Caribbean's number one source market.
During the special media briefing -- "View from the Top" -- arranged by CTO for Wescot-Williams, she was able to meet with a select group of reporters to talk about St Maarten's tourism outlook as well as reaffirm her strong belief in collaboration with other Caribbean nations.
Attending the special "View from the Top" event were reporters and editors from Travel + Leisure magazine, Bloomberg News, Travel Weekly, Caribbean Journal, Travel Agent Magazine, TravAlliance publications, The Washington Diplomat and Caribbean Media Corp.
Her message to the media was: "We should look at tourism as a tool for social development in St Maarten and across the Caribbean. Economic issues have forced us to look at ways and means of getting together and we are working collaboratively with our other Caribbean nations to mitigate the effects of climate change as well as social issues of unemployment, crime and health."
In answering a series of questions from a variety of the reporters present, the prime minister said: "If we in St Maarten want to remain on the cutting edge in the global tourism arena we have to invest in our infrastructure.
"We also need to be more than a seasonal destination and expand on our green initiatives. We need to look at the reasons for the seasonality and make St Maarten a year-round destination by finding new source markets."
She noted that St Maarten has approved a new energy policy to incorporate green initiatives.
The prime minister went on to say: "We need to continuously explore what the cruise passengers are looking for when they visit St Maarten on their brief stops and explore how we can entice them to come back as stay-over visitors.
"Airlift remains an issue for St Maarten and the entire Caribbean and is always a topic on the agenda for all the islands."
She concluded with: "The larger percentage of our Caribbean countries depend on tourism and we need to be able to show our people how tourism can help with unemployment and assist with other areas of social development. We need to show our residents the link between tourism and a better economic and social life.
"Tourism cannot be seen as a silo, but must be seen as one of the main economic drivers for most of the Caribbean nations."
During her visit in New York, Wescot-Williams participated in several other interviews with reporters and local television and online networks.