ROY R. MARLIN, WHO WAS APPOINTED COMMISSIONER OF TOURISM for St. Maarten in July, told Travel Agent that food is what agents should pitch when booking his destination. Sure, it has the usual Caribbean gems—beautiful beaches, plenty of yachting opportunities, a vibrant nightlife with 13 casinos—but St. Maarten's cuisine is regarded by many to be the best in the Caribbean.
One of Marlin's recent accomplishments was securing funding to defray education expenses so St. Maarten civil servants can obtain associate's, bachelor's and master's degrees. Many of the civil servants will return to their studies after being out of school for several years and while they're still holding down jobs.
Tips for Agents: St. Maarten has great hotel products but, like St. Vincent and the Grenadines, is well-suited for people looking to get off the resorts and explore the island. Travelers who appreciate the culinary arts are ideal for St. Maarten. Book baby boomers with an income between $40,000 and $90,000. "You don't need to be an experienced traveler," Marlin told us. "Tasting food is the primary attraction on the island. We have everything from Indian to Vietnamese food."
More Luxury Looms: St. Maarten is becoming increasingly upscale, so look for that $40,000 to $90,000 bracket to go up a bit. Marlin mentions a new development called Indigo Bay that will be the site of many condos and townhouses.
Getting There: JetBlue service from New York to St. Maarten commences January 17. Currently, American Airlines flies nonstop from New York, Miami and San Juan, and serves other U.S. cities with connecting flights. US Airways flies nonstop from Philadelphia and Charlotte, with connecting flights from a number of U.S. cities. Nonstop service is available from Chicago on United Airlines, from Newark on Continental and from Atlanta on Delta, with connecting flights throughout the U.S. GWV offers flights out of Boston, and Spirit Airlines flies from Fort Lauderdale.