St. Maarten Tourism information system enables tailor-made marketing

POSTED: 05/30/11 1:47 PM

St. Maarten – Shorter lines at the immigration counters in the arrivals hall of Princess Juliana International Airport and a wealth of information for the government and the private sector to target individual tourists with tailor-made marketing campaigns. These are two of the advantages the Tourism Statistic Information System TSIS has to offer. The system will go live sometime in September, before the start of the high season. The St. Maarten government has invested 2 million guilders ($1.1 million) in it.
Project manager Martin Meijerink gave Smart-participants an update on TSIS yesterday morning at the Westin hotel.
When TSIS kicks in this September, the traditional immigration card will disappear. The project team has designed a new card that has room for promotional information about current events on the island. It could, for instance, give all air arrivals the complete schedule for the Carnival celebration. Arrivals don’t have to fill in their name or their date of birth anymore, because all this information is in their passport.
But what visitors will be asked to provide is information about where they are going to stay. They will receive a separate departure card that contains questions about people’s experience with St. Maarten. There is no obligation to answer these questions, but the experience with a similar system in the Bahamas shows that it generates “a very nice response,” as Meijerink put it.
“Within half a year to a year we will have a lot of good feedback from our visitors,” Meijerink said. “We know it is going to work and we will learn from this system how our visitors experience St. Maarten.”
Visitors will be able to generate an electronic arrival card before their departure to St. Maarten. The system is linked to booking sites that will direct vacationers how to use the system to their advantage. The system offers the card in different languages and it will also contain promotional information.
At the airport scanners will be placed about two meters before the all immigration desks. Visitors put their arrival card on the scanner; the scan takes 0.25 seconds, Meijerink said and the information will immediately show up on the computer screen of the immigration officer. “This will reduce the lines at immigration,” the project leader said.
The government will order 17 scanners and keep a couple of them as backup in case a machine falters. The chance that problems will occur is minimal according to Meijerink. “The system is monitored online. We have 24/7 service 99.9 percent of the time and it is possible to fix glitches online.”
Meijerink said that the secure database that will contain the information TSIS generates will be physically housed in St. Maarten, with a backup in the United States. That backup is necessary, because the information in the system will become extremely valuable to decision makers and also to the private sector.
The data in TSIS will be combined with demographic and psychographic information from external databases. Visitor profiles will be enriched with behavioral characteristics. This will make it possible for instance to target specific vacationers with specific actions. The system will be able to identify all visitors who have expressed interest in certain activities, like diving.
The private sector will be able to use TSIS for this purpose for a fee, though the information in the system – like email-addresses – will not be made available to third parties. The marketing campaigns will therefore flow through the system’s administrator.
Meijerink said that it is possible to implement the same system at the cruise facility to gather information about cruise arrivals. St. Maarten will also hook up with neighboring islands like St. Barths and Anguilla to gather and share information about visitor profiles.
The main objectives of TSIS are enabling target marketing and data analysis with visitor information, improving the immigration process and collecting feedback to empower the improvement of visitor experiences.

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