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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Stakeholders Suggest Cities for Direct Air Service to SXM


If the “wish list” of stakeholders attending the kick off forum to discuss a new air service development plan for St. Maarten were to be granted, SXM Airport will be serviced by non-stop flights from Houston/Dallas, London, Sao Paulo, Berlin, Moscow, Stockholm, Bogota and Quito.

The stakeholders attending the 4-hour forum at SXM Airport Tuesday were asked to identify what they perceived to be the most viable markets for SXM to pursue in terms of increasing airlift. Given that 48% of flights to SXM from the USA, the island’s major source market, are via connections, with Charlotte (CLT), Atlanta (ATL) and Miami (MIA) as the main gateways for these connections, the stakeholders were asked to indicate their wishes for cities around the world where they would like to see direct flights to SXM.

Acting head of the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau, Edward Dest, disclosed that based on discussions, he expects charter service to/from Stockholm to begin early as next year.

Saro Spadaro, President of Sonesta-Maho Group, revealed that he is having discussions with tour operators regarding direct service from Houston in the summer.

However, Ian Bertram of El Perial Management Service, the firm commissioned to undertake the study, said based on preliminary analysis, some new cities SXM may want to pursue could include Hartford, Baltimore, Houston, Minneapolis, (all in the US) and London, Frankfurt, Milan, Bogota as well as Lima. He mentioned possible service to/from Georgetown’s Ogle airport as well as service to Paramaribo via Suriname Airways.

Bertram stressed that to achieve the core objective of increasing passenger movement to SXM, the synergistic impact between international and regional airlines must be taken into account.

“St. Maarten by itself will not be able to go it alone,” he said, referring to the combination of hub possibilities, tourism product, and airport costs and services, which he described as key. “It requires a partnership with the hub partners,” he added.

Attending the meeting were officials from the tourist boards of Anguilla, St. Barths, and Saint-Martin as well as the St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce, and the St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA). Also participating in the meeting were officials of the Department of Civil Aviation & Shipping & Maritime Affairs, Ministry of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications, and representatives of WINAIR and LIAT.