Travel Agent was among a small contingent of media who sat down and chatted with St. Maarten's new Director of Tourism, May-Ling Chun, during our ongoing coverage of the Caribbean Tourism Organization's (CTO) State of the Industry Conference on Friday.
Among some of Chun's short-term goals as director is investing more money into promoting trade with a specific focus on educating agents as well as providing more agent incentives. Chun would not share the specifics nor the total dollar amount that would be invested for such promotion. Chun also says the Bureau is working to establish a specialist program for agents.
Chun also noted that another prioirty is to possibly reorganize the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau with hopes of creating a St. Maarten Tourism Authority. Chun says, however, that it has not yet been decided whether or not the bureau would be eliminated or if both a bureau and a tourism authority would co-exist, noting "we are still looking to see how that would work."
"We basically want to set up a semi-private company for marketing on its own," she says. "This would operate as a private entity and would eliminate your red tape."
Chun also says there will be a new, daily JetBlue Airways flight out of San Juan, beginning on November 17.
In January, the destination's system for tracking tourism statistics will be reformatted. The new system will be much more detailed and will have a heavy focus on how clients booked the destination and what they liked the most about it.
Chun says the prime clientele for St. Maarten is the 35-55-year-old traveler, usually foodies. She did note, however, that there has been an increase in Americans looking to island hop from St. Maarten to other neighboring islands, including Anguilla and St. Barth's. She says the Bureau is currently in discussion with the tourism boards from neighboring islands with hopes of partnering with tour operators to offer packages that would include several islands.
The destination is also looking to beef up tourism numbers during the summer season by adding new festivals and events and by increasing marketing on existing events, such as the popular Heineken Regatta sailing race.
Chun was named the interim director of tourism roughly three months ago, replacing Regina LaBega, who was appointed managing director of the Princess Juliana International Airport.
Chun brings 20 years of marketing and tourism experience to the position of director of tourism having served as regional manager for the St. Maarten Tourist Office in New York and director of operations at St. Maarten's Oyster Bay Beach Resort.
She is currently owner and managing director of Innovative Marketing Creations, N.V. in St. Maarten. Chun has been a member of the St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA) for 11 years and currently is the association's second vice president/director of marketing.
As the regional manager of the St. Maarten Tourist Office in New York, Chun was responsible for increasing market share from the U.S., overseeing sales efforts across the country, developing yearly marketing strategies, maintaining close relationships with tour operators, participating in tradeshows and sales calls, planning fam trips for trade and media groups, implementing coop marketing programs and developing airlift programs.
LaBega's move to managing director of Princess Juliana Airport comes after 12 years in the role as director of tourism for St. Maarten. She leaves a department that has a successful track record of achievements under her direction over these years.