SHTA Holds Meeting with Real Estate Companies
In an attempt to discuss the rapid rise of the short-term vacation rental sector, the St. Maarten Hospitality & Trade Association (SHTA) held a meeting with members and non-members of St. Maarten real estate and vacation rental agencies in their offices last Thursday.
Over the past decade, the rapidly growing use of AirBnB, VRBO, Home & Away, and private home individual rentals have brought opportunities and challenges to destinations worldwide. The meeting was part of a wider SHTA initiative to assess the size and impact of the short-term vacation rental industry, of which reliable facts are currently not available. Charting this sector could yield considerable benefits to the destination when dealing with foreign tourism representatives, airlines, and cruise liners home porting to St. Maarten. When charted, bringing St. Maarten’s sizeable villa and condo market to the forefront could also be part of dedicated marketing messages to short-term vacation rental target groups. Also, it highlights the number of high-end/luxury market individual units available for rent.
At the same time, the relatively novel phenomenon also brings challenges to destinations. In the words of one attendee, a fact-based approach is needed “separating fact from fiction”. Many assumptions are currently dominating the market, but exact facts are lacking. Due to its many booking channels - some via intermediates on island, others online, others direct by the owner - it is a complex task to grasp both the size of the market as well as its occupancy. Opportunities discussed were amongst others numerical overviews of how the market is developing. SHTA supports recent initiatives by Minister of Finance Ardwell Irion to tackle this complex challenge and has offered assistance in a meeting earlier this year. In an attempt to be of assistance, SHTA has commenced an attempt to chart the sector.
The meeting involved representatives of Lighthouse Realty, Island Real Estate, Coral Beach Club, RE/MAX Island Properties, Sotheby’s International Realty, and Keller Williams. Realtors endorsed the SHTA effort to get more insights into the short-term vacation rental market and processes in order to create insights into the market and provide a level playing field amongst all St. Maarten lodgings.