The Saba Government and Commissioner of Tourism Bruce Zagers are looking at a number of changes to the Tourist Bureau, the Harbour Office, the airport, the Tourism Committee and the taxi services in order to make the Saba Tourism Action Plan 2016-2018 a success.
The Tourist Bureau will take a more prominent and pro-active role in marketing Saba and making tourist stays even more pleasant. The image and services of the tourist office will be improved, with the tasks and responsibilities of the Tourist Bureau clearly outlined and communicated with the stakeholders.
Not only will the staff of the Tourist Bureau be provided with a representative uniform, but the office hours will also be expanded. The Tourist Bureau will eventually be open all day during office hours on weekdays, also during lunch, and between 10:00am and 2:00pm on Saturdays and Sundays.
The structure of this new working schedule will be formulated with the input from the staff of the Tourist Bureau. In the event that visitors show up outside office hours, there will be an outlet which will have local brochures and other relevant information booklets.
Investments will be made to improve the marketing of Saba via digital media, whereas marketing via traditional channels such as printed media and trade shows will be evaluated based on effectiveness.
The Tourist Bureau will maintain an annual calendar, and actively promote Saba events in St. Maarten, St. Barths and other islands in the region, for example at activity desks and marinas. These updates will be posted on the Saba Tourism website.
The new Tourism Action Plan will also have implications for the Fort Bay Harbour as this office is instrumental in making sure that visiting yachts and day-trippers coming in by boat have an excellent experience in Saba.
The service needs overall improvement. An external expert will be hired to assist with the professionalization of the operations; the dock space has to be used more efficiently through the use of an agenda and log. Office hours will be evaluated. The harbour needs a website, and public Wi-Fi will be installed at Fort Bay.
Harbour personnel and security officers have to be available to assist visiting vessels. Harbour officers have to be more visible, wear their uniform and monitor boat traffic to ensure that vessels, both local and visiting, are using the correct moorings.
Commissioner Zagers was very clear on the need for a clean, organised harbour. “While there is no additional money to dedicate to maintenance, the lack of cleanliness can no longer be ignored and will not be accepted,” it was stated in the document.
At the airport, public Wi- Fi will be installed as a service for visitors. The Saba Government will continue to lobby to open the airport for more air traffic, and look into the possibility of creating a second helicopter platform as this would facilitate the owners of mega yachts who could visit Saba with their helicopter.
The execution of the Airport Master Plan will continue as this enhances the safety of the facility and benefits tourism. The Master Plan includes the relocation of the Fire Department and the remodelling of the terminal building. More seating will be created once there is more space in the terminal after the relocation of the Fire Department. An outlet with printed materials for visitors will be placed at the airport.
Action will be taken to make the Tourism Committee more effective and fair for all stakeholders. Reviews from stakeholders on the functioning of this Committee, which has been involved in promoting the islands in the past two years and which is supposed to do so in a neutral manner, were mixed.
A new structure is being proposed for the Tourism Committee. All stakeholders will have an opportunity to be on the Committee. The Committee will be restructured to create a more effective advisory board. The Committee members will vote who will take part in the Tourism Advisory Board. This Board, which will advise the Government on marketing strategies, will be chaired by the Commissioner of Tourism.
The taxi services are targeted as well in the Action Plan. According to the Plan, the taxi drivers play a pivotal role in the experience of visitors to the island. To improve the tax service, all taxi drivers will be given a representative uniform and standards will be set for the appearance of the vehicles in terms of cleanliness and safety.
The island tour offered by taxis will be more clearly defined as a standard tour will ensure that all visitors will have a similar exciting experience. The welcoming agent at the Fort Bay Harbour will direct tourists who have booked an island tour to a designated taxi so it is clear to these visitors where they need to go.
To accomplish the goals set in the Tourism Action Plan, the Saba Government will actively seek financial assistance from the Dutch Government through the relevant Ministries. Insufficient funds are available through the local tourism budget, even when talking into consideration the funding that has been reserved for economic development by the Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations BZK.
A number of activities mentioned in the Action Plan will be financed through the available local funds. Additional funding will be requested from the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment I&M and the Ministry of Economic Affairs EZ.
I&M has made 3 million euros available for the backlog of maintenance at the harbour. Already some of this money has been spent to dredge the harbour basin late last year. A request for some “quick win” projects has been submitted for the reorganising of the Customs office, new dock repairs, a promotional outlet in the form of a Saba cottage, reinforcing the roof for parking purposes.
A request will be made at EZ, through the nature funds, for the investment in the harbour moorings. Funding will also be requested to finance an extended contract with the New York based marketing firm D&DPR and to get a new marketing firm in Europe. If funding from these Ministries does not materialise, the priorities will be adjusted accordingly based on the available financial means.
The Daily Herald.