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Sorting out St. Maarten and St. MartinApril 1, 2007 By: Mark Rogers Home-Based Travel Agent
Insider tips and basic info to plan a perfect vacation for your clients
In January, St. Maarten/St. Martin made things a little easier for travel agents when they announced "Bring Your Appetite for Life," a joint marketing campaign that unifies both the Dutch and French sides of the island as one destination. This represents the first time both sides have come together to promote the island as one.
Passports and Visas: Most travel agents are well aware of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative requiring passports from U.S. citizens entering the U.S. and traveling by air between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda, Central and South America. In response to the new requirements, visitors flying to St. Maarten will receive $100 in St. Maarten's "Bucks" when they register at participating hotels and show a new or renewed passport issued after December 15, 2006. The St. Maarten Bucks can be used by visitors at participating restaurants, hotels, car agencies and retailers in Dutch St. Maarten through December 31, 2007.
Airlift: Last November saw the official opening of St. Maarten's new terminal building at Princess Juliana Inter-national Airport, the international gateway for both the Dutch and French side. The $90 million project represents the first phase of the renovation of the airport. L'Espérance Airport on French St. Martin services small inter-island commuter flights.
Direct flights are provided by American Airlines from New York, Miami and San Juan; US Airways from Philadelphia and Charlotte; United Airlines from Chicago; Continental from Newark; Delta Air Lines direct from Atlanta; GWV from Boston; and beginning April 20, low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines will offer direct flights three times a week from their Fort Lauderdale hub. The service will operate on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
Cruise: The main deep-water port is in Philipsburg, St. Maarten. Cruise lines making calls include Aida, Carnival Cruise Lines, Celebrity Cruise Line, Costa Cruises, Cunard Line, Disney, Holland-America, Norwegian Cruise Line, P&O Cruises, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and Windstar Cruises.
Transportation: Car rental rates for a sub-compact range between $25 and $70 a day with unlimited mileage. Hertz, on the Dutch side of the island, rents standard vehicles but they also have a selection of Hummers, Jeep Wranglers and Ford Explorer 4x4s for rugged rides around the island, as well as Lincoln Continentals for a touch of luxury. Hertz can also arrange the hire of drivers; they recommend contacting the agency several days in advance. Visitors can make like Easy Rider and rent a chopper from Superbikes N.V., the Harley-Davidson dealer on the Dutch side. The company pays 20 percent commission on the rental fee of $150 a day or $900 per week. Contact Simon Hasbany, 599-544-2704, [email protected].
Climate/Time Zone: St. Maarten/St. Martin is on Atlantic Standard Time year-round. During the fall and winter, noon in New York equals 1 p.m. on the island. During daylight savings time in the U.S., the hour is the same on the eastern seaboard as it is on the island.
Wholesalers: Apple Vacations includes St. Maarten/St. Martin in its travel mix. Instead of charters, they use scheduled air for the destination. Base commission is 10 percent, although agents can earn up to 15 percent with incentives. Contact Bill Kliot, senior product manager, at 847-631-2449. Travel Impressions offers a minimum of 11 percent commission and a maximum of 12 percent on its St. Maarten/St. Martin packages. Agents can reach their regional rep by calling 800-888-1881. Agents booking vacations to the island can earn up to 15 percent with Funjet Vacations. Call 800-558-3050 to speak to a Funjet reservations agent.
On-Island Activities: Lagoon Sailboat Rental has 20-foot sailboats for rent within Simpson Bay Lagoon for $150 per day, with a half-day for $110. They pay 20 percent commission. On the Dutch side, Lucky Stables offers mountain and beach-trail rides, as well as sunset rides, which include a chance to ride your horse through the surf. They also have a romantic champagne night ride that ends with a beach campfire. Rides start at $45. They pay 20 percent commission.
Restaurants: Roberta Garzaroli, president of the Atrebor Group Inc., is a frequent visitor to St. Maarten. Both of her favorite restaurants are in Philipsburg. Wajang Doll is an Indonesian restaurant she enjoys for its traditional setting and cuisine. Wajang Doll's decor includes the theater puppets for which the restaurant is named. Antoine Restaurant is her choice for traditional French cuisine, first rate service and their delicious lobster bisque.
Christel Horst, supervisor of Lucky Stables, recommends Pineapple Pete's on the Dutch side. Pineapple Pete's is a self-described grill shack, with live music on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. Menu favorites include the crab-stuffed shrimp and the dark-rum crème brûlée. Horst also likes Lal's Indian Cuisine, on the French side. Lal's is located on the water, across from the airport, making it an ideal place for departing passengers who have already checked in for their flight. Cary Byerly, managing director of Lagoon Sailboat Rental, recommends Bistro Caribe. It's not on the waterfront, so it's sometimes overlooked by visitors. She's fond of the French Creole cooking and the relaxed atmosphere.
Educational Opportunities: From May 9 to 11 St. Maarten/St. Martin will be holding their annual SMART Tradeshow at the Westin Dawn Beach Resort & Spa. The networking event—which includes travel agents—brings together movers and shakers of the northeastern Carib-bean region (Anguilla, Antigua, Bar-buda, Dominica, Guadeloupe, Mont-serrat, Saba, St. Barthelemy, St. Eu-statius, St. Kitts & Nevis, Barbados, St. Maarten and St. Martin). Opportunities for agents include site inspections, a travel marketplace, conferences, a tour of the new Princess Juliana International Airport and pre- and post-tours of area islands. To request SMART registration forms contact the St. Maarten Hospitality & Trade Association office at 599-542-0108 or email [email protected].
Accommodations: Lodging choices on St. Maarten/St. Martin range from brand name resorts, small hotels, villas and condos. The Westin St. Maarten Dawn Beach Resort & Spa opened last December with 308 guest rooms and six suites. Rooms have balconies with views categorized as island view, ocean view or oceanfront view. Its freshwater infinity edge pool is meant to be the largest on the island. The resort is family-friendly, having a Westin Kid's Club. The travel agent liaison at the property is Elana de Beer, reservations manager. She can be contacted at [email protected].
La Samanna, an Orient-Express hotel and a member of The Leading Small Hotels of the World, is consistently rated one of the top hotels on the French side of the island. It has 81 rooms, 72 of which are beachfront suites. Several suites even have private sundecks on their roofs. The Elysées Spa features Mediterranean décor and a private garden with waterfall. The main dining room serves Asian, French, and Creole-influenced cuisine. The travel agent contact is Kerry Bergin, the resort's sales manager; [email protected].
The Radisson Resort St. Martin will welcome its first guests in early 2008 after an $80 million investment that includes the acquisition and renovation of the former L' Habitation de Lonvilliers Resort at Anse Marcel, one of the island's protected beaches on the French side. The family-friendly resort with 188 rooms and 62 suites will feature a signature zero-entry free-form swimming pool, two French restaurants and a 150-slip marina welcoming yachts up to 90 feet. —Mark Rogers
St. Maarten Tourist Board:
St. Martin Tourist Board:
SuperBikes N.V.: 599-544-2704,
The Westin St. Maarten Dawn Beach Resort & Spa: 599-543-6700,
La Samanna: 212-575-7030,
The Radisson Resort St. Martin: 954-491-7001,
Lagoon Sailboat Rental: 599-557-0714,
Lucky Stables: 599-544-5255,
Antoine Restaurant: 599-542-2964,
Bistrot Caraibes: 590 29 08 29,
Lal's Indian Cuisine: 599-557-9059,
Pineapple Pete's: 599-544-6030,
- 17. Wajang Doll: 599-542-2687