Renovated Tourist Bureau reopens, Holm recognised for his dedication

The renovated Saba Tourist Bureau in Windward-side was officially reopened on Sunday. “Farewell” was said to former Director of Tourism Glenn Holm at the event and his successor Ma­linda Hassell was welcomed.

There was much praise and many words of thanks for Holm, who retired re­cently after a career of more than 40 years at the Tourist Bureau.

“When one thinks about the tourist office, or tour­ism on Saba, many think of Glenn. He became well known for his charisma, his positive attitude and love for Saba, not only here in the region but throughout many international destina­tions. It is only fitting that we express our gratitude and appreciation for his ef­forts to help build Saba as a destination and for helping to put our ‘Unspoiled Queen’ on the radar for travellers throughout the world,” said Commissioner of Tourism Bruce Zagers.

He commended Holm for being able to build relation­ships with media outlets and others while having to work with a very small bud­get and limited advertising opportunities.

“He was often able to get substantial coverage for Saba at rates that were friendly for his little bud­get. His passion and the ability to build relations stand out to me. Having travelled with Glenn to the Vakantiebeurs in the Netherlands, I got to see him at his best. Glenn was in his element when speak­ing about Saba. It was im­pressive to see the scores of people who would visit the Saba booth just to see him.”

Tourism being one of Saba’s main economic pil­lars and considering the challenges that tourism has been facing since the 2017 hurricanes and with the current pandemic, Holm’s approaching retirement made it urgent to find a capable replacement with ample experience in the in­dustry. This person became Malinda Hassell, who grew up in Saba.

“She is highly qualified and brings a wealth of expe­rience which is needed dur­ing this recovery. We are all impressed with her mo­tivation and ideas to help us build and diversify our tourism product. Malinda, we are happy to welcome you to our team and we look forward to seeing your passion result into tangible improvements for our tour­ism product,” said Zagers.

Opening of the renovated Saba Tourist Bureau with (from left) Commissioner of Tourism Bruce Zagers, former Director of Tourism Glenn Holm, Island Governor Jonathan John­son and new Tourism Director Malinda Hassell.

True ambassador

Hassell referred to Holm as the “special person who has been the face of Saba for the past 40 years and a true ambassador of our is­land, an overall icon, and a beacon of light.”

Holm has what she calls the “Tourism DNA: a mix­ture of passion for what you do with an unbeatable knowledge of our natural wonders that make you the most service-minded, patient and caring person I know.” She commended Holm for always being will­ing to run the extra mile.

“Growing up in Saba, I saw Glenn as the face of tourism and someone I admired. I left when I was a teenager and I promised myself that one day I would return. Over the years I went on to study marketing and tourism consultancy and my career evolved in both public and the pri­vate sector over the past 12 years. I would have never imagined that years later I would be Glenn’s succes­sor,” said Hassell.

She said that with her knowledge and expertise, she seeks to contribute to the success of Saba’s sus­tainable tourism develop­ment during this post-CO­VID economic and indus­try recovery.

She said that now, more than ever, Saba has to work towards formulating strategic approaches and look into transformational opportunities; destination alignment, sustainable development and values-based marketing that will help formulate decisions for the future that will ef­fectively help lead the bu­reau and the tourism indus­try.

Tourism Master Plan

“We need to start the engines of a new Tour­ism Master Plan to under­stand where we are, where we want to be and what should we do to get there. The tourism industry is of vital importance for the economy and as the island continues to have positive developments, also new room inventory in the next two years, maritime ferry connectivity and the future harbour expansions, it is crucial that stakeholders have a strategic plan with a clear direction, action plan and budget alignment for its implementation.”

Collaborations with neigh­bouring islands need to be fortified, marketplace pres­ence increased and travel possibilities and new itin­eraries for visitors created. This, Hassell said, would help boost the day-trip market and overnight stays.

Saba’s digital marketing efforts and public-relations presence should increase as well. “We need to re­position and promote Saba within our key markets, seek collaborations but also support our airline and maritime partners, explore opportunities and new product developments that set us apart but ensure our natural and cultural heri­tage is promoted.”

Hospitality training in a post-pandemic era is ex­tremely important to main­tain a high-quality service level. The Tourist Bureau will explore the possibilities of also creating an e-learning Saba Tourism platform to involve partners, youth and the community.

Hassell said she would work closely with all part­ners, address the issues and challenges, hear construc­tive criticism, try to seek opportunities and solu­tions, and improve where needed.

Renovation

During the slow period created by the pandemic, the public entity Saba took advantage to expand and remodel the Tourist Bu­reau. The interior was com­pletely renovated, and a conference room and pub­lic bathrooms were added. The conference room is called the Glenn Holm Conference Room in his honour.

The office now has a more welcoming environment for both visitors and stakehold­ers, said Commissioner Za­gers. Everyone is welcome to pass by and view the renovated bureau.

In his speech, Holm looked back at the time when the office equipment consisted of a manual type­writer, a telephone and a hand-cranked mimeograph machine for making copies.

“There were no glossy brochures, websites, social-media platforms. Building a tourism industry didn’t happen overnight. It was a gradual process. In time, as the island grew and offered more amenities and attrac­tions, financing became available and more interest was shown in the off-beaten track destinations, the is­land became more known and sought after.”

Travel trade shows were at­tended with the assistance of the European Union and the Dutch Caribbean promotion programme, a budget for advertising and promotion was deemed necessary by the local gov­ernment, more access to the island by air and by sea was developed and visitor arrivals began to increase.

Glenn Holm (right) speaking at the reopening of the Saba Tourist Bureau in Windwardside.

Longest reigning

Holm thanked the staff with whom he had worked over the years, local stake­holders and the travel trade in general. “To all the friends and acquaintances that I have made during my time in the tourism indus­try, it has been an absolute pleasure. I enter retirement today with a great feeling of accomplishment, also knowing that I’ve been the longest reigning director of tourism in the entire Carib­bean.”

From the hands of Is­land Governor Jonathan Johnson, Holm received an award of recognition, thanking him for the many years of dedicated service, commitment and integrity to the Saba Tourist Bureau, stakeholders and the com­munity.

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