News & Media
Speech of PJIAE Caretaker – Michel Hyman at Opening of Aviation Conference
Honourable Members of the Council of Ministers, Chairman of the Conference, Cdr. Bud Slabbert, Distinguished guests and participants in this Caribbean Aviation Conference Ladies and Gentlemen.
Good evening and welcome, bienvenue, bienvenidos, welkom!
As you will quickly find out, if you do not know it already, St. Maarten is a multi-lingual island, a microcosm of the Caribbean in all its splendor and diversity. We at the Princess Juliana International Airport are a true reflection of this fact.
Hosting this 2nd Annual Caribbean Aviation MeetUp (or CaribAvia) is another demonstration of our strong belief in networking and regional integration because our destiny is inseparable from that of the rest of the Caribbean.
In fact, the idea of a Caribbean Aviation conference was born right here at SXM Airport and I highly commend Bud Slabbert for bringing it back to its birthplace just in its second edition. We have Routes Europe, Routes Africa, Routes Asia and now there is CaribAvia, the only aviation gathering that caters exclusively to this region.
Considered “the largest airlift conference in the Caribbean in 2017”, CaribAvia is not just about St. Maarten. A quick look at the program will show that the discussions will cover various topics that are of great importance to the aviation industry in the region. With 30 international speakers and over 175 participants from 28 countries, including participants from Europe and the USA, it is evident that the conference is already getting the international recognition it deserves.
This recognition and exposure is further guaranteed by the participation of renowned international aviation journalists and writers who will surely spread the word in a way no amount of advertising money can buy.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is a well-known fact that SXM Airport is an award-winning international airport which currently serves as a hub for eight destinations in this subregion – Anguilla, Dominica, St. Barths, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Martin (French), Nevis and Tortola. Such is the significance of this hub function that Moody’s Investor Service highlighted it when it granted the airport a Baa2 rating a few years ago, a rating we have steadfastly maintained.
As an international hub, our airport has directly impacted tourism on our hub partners. The relationship is such that Princess Juliana International Airport is also the international airport for all of them. We are in fact looking at immigration and customs pre-clearance for passengers bound for these destinations.
In addition, negotiations have already begun for the establishment of a US Pre-clearance at SXM Airport just like in Aruba and The Bahamas for US-bound travelers. This will have a tremendous impact on our local economy and will result in increased tourism for all our hub partners as well.
It should be noted that SXM Airport regularly handles about 1.8 million passengers annually. The airport community alone accounts for some 1300 employees. The airport and its users, according to a recent Central Bank of Curacao and St. Maarten report, accounts for a total impact of 60% of the GDP of St. Maarten and 52% of total employment. This conference, I am sure, will further highlight the importance of the airport as it relates to the General Aviation and luxury yachting sectors.
In fact, from this vantage point, you might be able to spot some aircrafts, possibly private jets and commercial airlines landing at the airport. Of course, the whole world knows St. Maarten for of its spectacular, mind-boggling landings. It is an experience of a lifetime for thrill-seekers from all over the globe. No wonder PrivateFly.com named our airport the “World’s Most Stunning Landing” by PrivateFly.com in 2013. The award for this year will be announced during this conference.
Ladies and gentlemen, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, they say. To make sure that this will not be the case, our team has arranged some light-hearted activities for you, including tonight’s reception sponsored by the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau, on behalf of the Government of Sint Maarten. You will also be able to see a demonstration of the Cessna Caravan EX Seaplane, an experience which we hope will move you.
Let me end with this observation made by Jennifer E. Smith who said: “People who meet in airports are seventy-two percent more likely to fall for each other than people who meet anywhere else.” As a networking gathering, it is my hope that this statistics about love at first sight would hold true for all of us in terms of finding each other and establishing meaningful contacts and relationships right here at CaribAvia in St. Maarten.
I thank you.