The St. Maarten Timeshare Association (SMTA) seldom speaks out, so when it does people should take note. After all, it’s one of the main pillars of the Dutch side’s stayover tourism.
What makes the public statements interesting is that they regard issues related to the own industry. These types of self-regulating efforts are important to maintain the sector’s good name and credibility.
The behaviour – or rather misbehaviour – of off-property consultants (OPCs) with aggressive and deceitful sales tactics, including gimmicks to lure the customer such as scratch cards, is the main problem. They not only tend to harass visitors, but reportedly even approach guests at other resorts to buy their competing product.
This is clearly unethical, but also against the rules. According to SMTA, the permit-holder must do the vending from a booth in clearly identifiable uniform.
The reality is that most major properties at one point or another have probably made use of roaming OPCs, who – let’s face it – helped sell a lot of weeks that put many “heads in beds” over the years. The question is therefore not “whether” they should be allowed to operate, but rather “how.”
Of even greater concern was talk of “peddling vacation rentals that do not exist in St. Maarten.” The island’s reputation has already suffered enough ill-repute in the recent past with pre-construction sales for developments that were never completed, loss of ownership rights through bankruptcies, etc.
As with most laws, enforcement is key. That’s why SMTA backs Tourism Minister Johnson’s call for more promotion and marketing funds, but also wants means for frequent inspections to tackle infractions.
The individuals involved need to understand that a quick sale can be at the cost of much more if they alienate the very travellers on whom the entire economy and practically everybody’s livelihood including their own depends. It’s all about the vacation experience.