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Tourism public relations firm’s contract in limbo

PHILIPSBURG--A tourism public relations (PR) company employed by St. Maarten Tourist Bureau has been caught in technical limbo during the ongoing political uncertainty.

However, despite the unwelcome news, its President Richard Kahn said it was still “actively representing the tourism interests of St. Maarten” and doing its “best to promote the destination.” This is despite also being owed money.

Kahn Travel Communications, or KTCpr, has not had its contract officially signed by Government and was told last week not to spend any money on behalf of the destination. When asked, Kahn said the company had not been paid since March.

However, he added that although the company was hampered by a lack of funding, it “continues to succeed in promoting St. Maarten” and will continue to promote the destination until it is told to stop. Some forms of promotion and press trips, for example, will halt.

“We continue to speak to reporters across all media in the U.S. and Canada as well as throughout the Caribbean and are actively helping them with stories. Up until last week, we were also collecting clips of articles that have appeared regularly in major media in North America, but there is a cost for the media Clipping Service,” Kahn disclosed.

There has been longstanding concern amongst the local business community about the destination’s lack of marketing through Government, as well as disappointment over the stagnation of the St. Maarten Tourism Authority (STA).

Kahn shared that in his 25-year experience with Caribbean tourism partners, he often had come across one thing that he called “disturbing”: that many destinations relying heavily on tourism for their gross domestic product (GDP) do not give tourism the credit, respect and funding it deserves.

“St. Maarten is one of those nations. … Some people know it and others don’t,” he said. He pointed to the far-reaching trickle-down effect of tourism as contributing to many other national industries.

KTCpr’s current dilemma is reminiscent of the broken deal with Interreps, which represented St. Maarten within the Benelux (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg).

Representation through Interreps came to a disappointing end, as reported last year, after the contract was not renewed and the company had been on the receiving end of a lack of payment, direction and communication from the St. Maarten Government through the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau.

KTCpr has promoted St. Maarten for six years, and has worked with various Caribbean partners for 25. The company also does work for local private sector partners and is a well-recognised name and face in the business community, although it is based in the United States.

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