Saba keeps working on strengthening its tourism product through promotion in the United States (US), Canada and the Netherlands, by attending trade shows abroad and by strengthening the relations with surrounding islands. Tourist Office Director Glenn Holm gives an update.
Saba is part of the Airport Service Development Committee (ASDC), a committee consisting of nine islands in the North Eastern Caribbean that works together to promote St. Maarten’s Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA) as a hub. The committee, which was initially established in 2016, is being reactivated. The committee is currently working on a budget and a marketing plan. Once that process is completed, a marketing company will be contracted. PJIA has committed to pay 50 per cent of the funding for the ASDC, while the rest of the islands will cover the other half, divided by the percentage of the traffic from St. Maarten.
The participating islands Dominica, St. Barths, the British Virgin Islands (BVI), St. Kitts and Nevis, Anguilla, St. Eustatius and Saba, are all serviced by flights from St. Maarten and in that sense it is important for them to promote the hub function of The Princess Juliana International Airport. Island hopping is especially popular with visitors from the European Union. The fact that St. Maarten has multiple European flights creates opportunities for the surrounding islands, including Saba.
The number of day trippers is gradually picking up after Hurricane Irma. Hopping over from St. Maarten for a day, mostly on the Edge ferry, gives these visitors a good impression of Saba and many of them return, said Holm. Saba has cultivated its own niche market mostly from the US and Canada. But the island depends on the flights from the US and Canada to St. Maarten to bring the visitors who come here to dive and hike.
Saba has a number of great selling points: no crime, friendly, hardworking and proud people, beautiful, clean villages, pristine nature under and above water, and the peace and quiet. “This makes us unique in the region and we use these as selling points to promote Saba,” said Holm.
Tourism from the Netherlands has been steadily increasing. Steady attendance of the Holiday Fair (“Vakantiebeurs”) which takes place in Utrecht every January, has proven to book positive results. Saba’s booth always gets a lot of visitors who are specifically interested in what the island has to offer: ecotourism and tranquility. Saba will have its own booth at the Holiday Fair in January.
Holm said it was important to attend the Holiday Fair. “You have to be there if you want the Dutch market. The fact that we are part of the Netherlands and that we are officially the highest point is helpful in the marketing,” he said. Saba will also have representatives at the “Duik Vaker” dive show in Utrecht in February 2019.
Saba continuously strives to increase air traffic from St. Maarten and other islands. Possibilities are being looked into to have Saba added to the Winair/Air Antilles itinerary to facilitate flights to and from Bonaire. According to Holm, Saba is seeing more visitors from Bonaire. Efforts are also made re-establish the direct St. Barths-Saba flights. The direct flights between January and August 2017 with Winair proved that there is a market. Holm said that apart from the tourists wanting to come to Saba one or more days, people residing in St. Barths have shown interest in visiting the island during the low season.
Several high-end cruise ships will visit Saba this season. From November 2018 to April 2019, some 20 calls are scheduled by the Crystal Esprit and the Sea Dream Yacht Club ships. These cruise visits are important for the island’s economy and bring a different, high class tourism.
Travelwriters are regularly invited to visit the island. These visits are arranged by Saba’s marketing company in New York, D&DPR. The Regional Gateway, a regional and business airport magazine from the United Kingdom (UK), dedicated two full pages to Saba in its November issue, which was actually the first edition. The article, titled “Postcards from the edge,” features an interview with Manager of the Juancho Yrausquin Airport Maegan Hassell.
Promotion on the Canada market continues with Saba being featured in the magazines Escapism, Foodism and Horizon Lifestyle with full-page ads. According to Holm, Canadians are big travellers, they love nature and this market has a lot of potential. The direct flights from Canada to St. Maarten are a big plus.
Also, a film crew from Curaçao of the Boarding Pass Travels TV program visited Saba early November. The crew visited several restaurants and hotel properties. The crew filmed how to prepare Lion fish and where to hike. The show will air in Curaçao, Aruba, Bonaire and the Netherlands.
Promotional clips of Saba have been featuring on screens in multiple locations of the company Network 4U in St. Maarten. The promotional material was made by Malachy MacGee of Malachy Multimedia.
New promotional material has been printed with a different design. Destination brochures are available in five languages: English, Dutch, German, French and Spanish. The generic English brochure is being reprinted because they are running out. The Saba Tourist Office is active on various social media, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.