Regina Labega

IATA Interested in SXM Aviation Training Academy

SIMPSON BAY, St. Maarten — The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is showing keen interest in partnering with the Princess Juliana International Airport, SXM, with its Aviation Training Academy. This was revealed at a recent meeting held between a delegation of SXM led by managing director Regina LaBega and representatives of IATA’s Training and Development Institute (ITDI) upon the latter’s invitation, at their regional office in Miami.
ITDI expressed great interest in exploring SXM’s needs, but more importantly wanted to determine how it could be part of SXM aviation training plans through a possible partnership. ITDI offers training in all areas related to the aviation industry except for the training of pilots.

L-R: Regina LaBega, SXM Managing Director, Suzy Kartokromo, SXM Acting Manager, Customer Service Department, Gurjit Gill, Manager, Training Partners and Business Development, Theresa Light,  Manager, Regional Training Center The Americas  (both of ITDI), and Lionel van der Walt, IATA Area Manager for the Caribbean. (SXM photo)
L-R: Regina LaBega, SXM Managing Director, Suzy Kartokromo, SXM Acting Manager, Customer Service Department, Gurjit Gill, Manager, Training Partners and Business Development, Theresa Light, Manager, Regional Training Center The Americas (both of ITDI), and Lionel van der Walt, IATA Area Manager for the Caribbean. (SXM photo)

According to LaBega, SXM Airport is interested in identifying training areas that would set it aside from the rest of the pack. The discussions therefore focused primarily on the excellent opportunity that presents itself due to the fact that the entire region is in need of an aviation training academy, especially in filling the void in training for the French Caribbean.
“As a multi-lingual destination, SXM can fill this void,” LaBega said.
The possible partnership with IATA in establishing the Aviation Training Academy would result in SXM Airport being fully endorsed by IATA and Airport Council International (ACI) as an IATA Regional Training Host. This in turn would mean that the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) would certify SXM Aviation Training Academy.
As an IATA Regional Training Host, the SXM Aviation Training Academy would be authorized to host IATA classroom courses on its premises, and thus be included in the global IATA classroom schedule.
The Academy would also create high-skilled jobs for potential trainers and enhance business in a number of sectors, such as accommodation, car rentals, restaurants, supermarkets, etc. It would similarly attract business from the region, as trainees from all across the Caribbean would be able to make use of it.
“Some European countries have also indicated that they would consider training their staff at our Academy when established instead of having to do so in Miami and other areas that may be more expensive,” LaBega disclosed.
For all of this to happen, however, support and cooperation from the Civil Aviation Authority of St. Maarten would be critical, as would be the full cooperation of government.
“St. Maarten’s Civil Aviation Authority are completely on board with regards to this plan,” LaBega said.
ITDI, in its vision of becoming the global aviation-training provider of choice, offers top quality training solutions to aviation and travel professionals worldwide. Its approach is to offer practical and relevant training for professional development in areas such as Air Navigation Services, Ground Operations, Airport Planning, Management and Operations, Cargo, Safety, Dangerous Goods Regulations, and Aviation Law amongst others.
With over 430 Global Training Partners in over 90 countries, ITDI has trained more than 95,000 students through its highly sought after Classroom, Distance Learning, Virtual Classroom and Online training courses.

Photo caption:
L-R: Regina LaBega, SXM Managing Director, Suzy Kartokromo, SXM Acting Manager, Customer Service Department, Gurjit Gill, Manager, Training Partners and Business Development, Theresa Light, Manager, Regional Training Center The Americas (both of ITDI), and Lionel van der Walt, IATA Area Manager for the Caribbean. (SXM photo)

“Cuba has been open for a long time” says Airport Director

PhotoCaption: Regina LaBega (3rd R), at the Airports and Airport Executives Forum of the Airports  Conference of the Americas, held in San Juan, Puerto Rico, August 11 – 13, 2015. (SXM photo)
PhotoCaption: Regina LaBega (3rd R), at the Airports and Airport Executives Forum of the Airports
Conference of the Americas, held in San Juan, Puerto Rico, August 11 – 13, 2015. (SXM photo)

SIMPSON BAY, St. Maarten —“Cuba has been open for quite a long time, albeit to the European, Canadian and Latin American markets in particular. Even travelers from the US have been finding their way into Cuba, sometimes via Canada and other destinations.”

This was the opinion expressed by the managing director of the Princess Juliana International Airport, SXM, Regina LaBega at the Airport and Airport Executives Forum of the Airports Conference of the Americas, held in San Juan, Puerto Rico last Wednesday.

“Even before the historic thawing of relations between the US and Cuba, it was frequently predicted that the so-called re-opening of Cuba would adversely affect tourism in the rest of the Caribbean. However, the facts so far have not borne this out,” said LaBega.

She explained that “in the short term, the effects of the normalization of relations between the US and Cuba are not so visible especially because the process will take some time.” LaBega was an invited guest speaker at the forum of airport executives.

“The cruise sector may begin to feel the impact several months down the road, given the proximity of Cuba to the US and the expected ‘rush’ to see Cuba before it is transformed by the same US tourism which it had been loathe to embrace wholeheartedly in the past,” she said.

“In my opinion,” LaBega continued, “some of the predictions and expectations would seem exaggerated because there is no indication at the moment that the regime in Cuba would drastically change its policy in terms of tourism development. Besides, the infrastructural investments that would be needed to accommodate the influx that is forecast would take several years if not decades to build. These include modern airports.”

All of these, in her view, could as a matter of fact, open up opportunities for countries like Jamaica, which because of their proximity to Cuba, could become a hub for that country. The forum also addressed issues such as the possible expansion of the use of kiosks and programs such as Global Entry in Latin America and the Caribbean and the question of Government Expectations and Business Realities and Capital Improvement Limitations.

LaBega expressed doubts about the feasibility of the Trusted Traveler program in Latin America and the Caribbean “at the moment, given the international climate and the widespread concerns about illegal immigration.”

After listing reasons why she believed the program may not be well-received in the region at present, she added: “What, on the other hand, many Caribbean countries would look favorably on would be a US pre-clearance regime such as exists in Aruba for example.” “We in St. Maarten are very interested in this, as it offers an attractive incentive for US visitors who on returning to the US would not have to be cleared by the US CBP again,” said the SXM managing director.

Regarding government expectations and business realities, LaBega explained the corporate structure of the Princess Juliana International Airport Operating Company, PJIAE, which limits direct government intervention and offers the company the flexibility to raise its own funds.

“In my own experience,” she said, “the best way to deal with government involvement is to run a professional, profitable, and transparent operation which serves the needs of the community and which projects itself positively on the international scene. It means being a good corporate citizen, and allowing the result of your stewardship to speak for itself. Above all, it requires that one deals with delicate political sensitivities in a mature manner, but always keeping the interest of the company at the forefront.”

“It was a very interesting and quite interactive forum,” LaBega said this week, adding that several participants agreed with her positions, although there were those who held different views as well. Regina LaBega (3rd R), at the Airports and Airport Executives Forum of the Airports Conference of the Americas, held in San Juan, Puerto Rico, August 11 – 13, 2015. (SXM photo)

Princess Juliana Int’l Airport believes in the ‘greening and re-greening’ of St. Maarten

Calls made for businesses to invest in environment at Blue Flag tree-planting
BELAIR, St. Maarten —Princess Juliana Int’l Airport, as Blue Flag-designated company for April, in collaboration with Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC) and St. Maarten Nature Foundation, initiated a tree-planting ceremony along Belair Road on Friday, May 11, to culminate its Blue Flag activities and show its commitment to environmental issues.

PJIAE Managing Director Regina LaBega, quoted Frank Lloyd Wright in her remarks, noting “The best friend … of man is the tree,” and added that “the airport believes in the environment and in the greening and re-greening of St. Maarten.”

LaBega said that, “Environmental sustainability and economic sustainability go hand in hand and, as PJIAE is a good corporate citizen, (it) will continue to collaborate with organizations of this nature to improve the environmental state of the island.”

EPIC Project Manager Rueben Thompson said that, “St. Maarten is no stranger to environmental challenges … from 1960 we have seen a decline in the number of ponds on the island and Little Bay Pond (which is in the Belair area), is one of the remaining ponds on the island that is ideal for planting trees to help maintain that environment.”

The trees that were planted along the Belair Road/Little Bay Pond bank were Sea Grape (Coccoloba uvifera) and Green and Silver Buttonwood (Conocarpus erectus). “Both species are hardy and adapted for this environment and require little to no maintenance,” said Thompson.

A total of nine trees were planted along the Belair Road/Little Bay Pond bank.

Ten airport employees, including management, took part in the tree-planting activity along with representatives from EPIC, which included visiting research students, and the Nature Foundation, which brought along two St. Maarten students.

Princess Juliana Int’l Airport called on companies in St. Maarten to collaborate with environmental groups and lauded organizations like EPIC and Nature Foundation for their continued efforts in raising environmental awareness among the general public.

Last month, during the St. Maarten Carnival festivities, numerous garbage cans throughout the Festival Village bore the Blue Flag label. Earlier in April, the airport placed garbage cans with the Blue Flag logo at Mullet Bay Beach during the Easter holidays as a public reminder to keep the environment clean.

“Mobilize the Earth” was the theme for this year’s international Earth Day, said Thompson, and he wanted to bring that theme closer to home. So he adapted the slogan to, “Mobilize St. Maarten,” with the involvement of PJIAE in environmental efforts. Thompson said the airport’s involvement was also a way to increase business sector interest in participating in environmental protection and conservation for the benefit of the whole island and its people.

The Blue Flag program is a prestigious international eco-label for beaches, marinas, and tourism destinations. Through the Blue Flag program St. Maarten is part of some 40 Blue Flag destinations around the world.

The eco-label is recognized as a symbol of quality by governments, NGOs, and the travel industry. The Blue Flag label is also used to promote the awarded beach, marina, hotel or destination.

Photo Caption1:

Students look on while PJIAE Managing Director Regina LaBega assist EPIC Project Manager Rueben Thompson (L) during tree-planting ceremony along Belair Road/Little Bay Pond bank (5.11.12). The planting of nine trees culminated the airport’s Blue Flag environmental conservation activities. (PJIAE photo)

St. Martin Book Fair presentation to Tourist Bureau

BF10-PosterPresentationGREAT BAY, St. Martin – The first poster printed for the 8th annual St. Martin Book Fair, June 3 – 5, 2010, was presented here on Monday to director of tourism Regina Labega (R), said book fair coordinator Shujah Reiph.

Book Fair Committee (BFC) member Ari Sutton (L), made the presentation of the poster at the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau (STB), headed by Labega. The STB is the steadfast partner of the book fair, which has “Nativity” as its theme this year.

The poster lists the main parts of the literary festival and highlights the featured authors: Gerard Jadotte (Haiti), Lori Tharps (USA), Christian Campbell (The Bahamas), Lasana M. Sekou (St. Martin), M. NourbeSe Philip (Canada), Verene Shepherd (Jamaica), Raphaël Confiant (Martinique), and Carolyn Cooper (Jamaica).

Reiph said that the entrance to all book launches, book selling exhibitions, workshops and general sessions “over three exciting days,” will be free to the public. This opening ceremony takes place at the University of St. Martin on June 3, at 8pm. The Conscious Lyrics Foundation and House of Nehesi Nehesi Publishers organize the St. Martin Book Fair in collaboration with the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau, the Collectivity of St. Martin, and the University of St. Martin.

Gina Rombley designed the golden ocher-colored poster. (CLF photo)