It seems like it took forever, but Parliament’s adoption of protective timeshare legislation (see related story) is a milestone in efforts to help safeguard this important part of the island’s tourism economy. Less-than-positive developments and experiences in the past years had created an unfavourable image of the sector that represents the vast majority of St. Maarten’s room inventory.
Of course, the initiative law still has to be ratified in the Council of Ministers and scrutinised by the Ombudsman. Extending bankruptcy protection to the timeshare owners would in any case seem to make all the sense in the world, basically as best possible preventing guests from being ripped off.
There are said to be real checks and balances for regulating matters like maintenance fees and service levels. For one thing, developers must fully disclose all projects to buyers to avoid unpleasant surprises later, while deceptive marketing is prohibited and will incur fines to be levied under the still-to-be-established Timeshare Authority.
The sooner the latter is done obviously the better, to also give the National Ordinance some “teeth.” This new body is to offer a practical tool for resolving potential disputes within the industry in the near future.
So there is still a lot to be done before the Dutch side’s main visitor accommodations offer is up to par with that of similar products in other vacation destinations, including the US, but a very big first step has now at least been taken.