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St. Maarten is heading into the winter season with a promising hand of accommodation improvements, new attractions and an interesting tweak to the island's arrival and departure process.
St. Maarten recently unveiled a Tourism Statistical Data Information System (TSIS) that processes new immigration cards for arriving and departing visitors to the island. The new TSIS scanners are in-place at Princess Juliana Airport. The intention is to facilitate easier and faster clearance through the airport. It will be interesting to see the new system in action, since it seems to place a greater degree of responsibility on the traveler, who must make sure everything is filled out correctly.
The process goes something like this: Visitors must fill out the cards accurately and fully before getting into the immigration line to avoid any unnecessary delays. Each person must complete an immigration card to be presented to the immigration officer. All immigration cards must be signed by the person whose information is on the completed card. The visitor is required to scan the new arrival immigration card into the scanning device that is available directly in front of the immigration counter. Once the card is successfully scanned, the traveler may then proceed to the immigration officer with their card. There's a similar process for the departure card. The new system is designed to be customer-friendly and reduce the time it takes to go through the immigration process.
The island recently welcomed a new tourism minister, the Honorable Romeo F. Pantophlet, whose official title is minister of tourism, economic affairs, transport and telecommunications. From 1980 through 2006, Pantophlet held positions at the Central Bureau of Statistics including the role of chief officer. From 2006 up until his appointment as minister, Pantophlet was the deputy director at the St. Maarten Academy; economic advisor to Commissioner Frans Richardson and, most recently, an educator in Economics and Business Administration at the St. Maarten Academy.
Accommodation & Attractions Update
The Sonesta Maho Beach Resort & Casino is undergoing a $3 million refurbishment scheduled to finish in November 2013. The makeover will complete the resort's transformation into an all-inclusive property. Guests receive meals and snacks each day at a choice of four different restaurants; unlimited international and domestic premium beer and spirits, fruit drinks and soft drinks; no reservations required at the restaurants; all hotel taxes and service charges; a weekly beach party dinner; in-room mini refrigerator refreshed daily with soft drinks and bottled water (in premier categories and higher, select spirits and beer are available); $20 per person in match bets for adults at The Casino Royale; a guest pass to the sister resort, Sonesta Great Bay with complimentary use of the resort's facility and all-inclusive meals and drinks programs; daytime activities including water aerobics, pool toys, use of snorkeling equipment, tennis, ping pong and pool tables; nightly theme parties and live entertainment; use of the fitness center; nightly outdoor movies for kids and adults; and the Just Us Kids activity program for children. Low season all-inclusive rates start at $413 per night, based on double occupancy, including all taxes.
The Westin Dawn Beach Resort & Spa, St. Maarten is throwing a party every Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Guests can enjoy "The Westin Sunset Party by the Beach" from 4:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. with live music from the island's hottest singers.
Aquamania Adventures has opened at Divi Little Bay Beach Resort. Activities at Aquamania include parasailing, waverunner rentals, deep sea fishing excursions, scuba and snorkeling trips, sunset sail and dinner cruises and day trips to neighboring islands.
Divi Little Bay Beach Resortwww.divilittlebay.com
Sonesta Maho Beach Resort & Casinowww.sonesta.com/mahobeach
St. Maarten Tourist Bureauwww.vacationstmaarten.com
The Westin Dawn Beach Resort & Spa, St. Maartenwww.westinstmaarten.com