With a closing debate and a ceremonial salvo of exploding recyclable balloons, the 4th Edition of The St. Maarten Innovation, Initiatives & Industries Link-Up Event (SMILE) officially closed this Saturday 5pm. The fourth edition of SMILE carried the theme “Make Your Business Future Proof”, aligning with the event’s traditional three values innovation, sustainability and networking between businesses, NGO’s and government.

This year’s participating SMILE speakers on the key themes of innovation and sustainability came from St. Maarten, Aruba, Curacao, Canada, Portugal, the United States and the Netherlands.

Amongst SMILE’s 2023 keynote speakers, relating to the above themes were Megan Smith (former Chief Technology Officer President Obama and former Vice President of Google, United States), Tyrell Pantophlet (founder PLAEX, St. Maarten / Neth.), Susan Alzner (United Nations, United States), Clara Reyes (Department of Culture Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth & Sports, St Maarten), James Ellsmoor (Island Innovations, Portugal) and Kris Bouwstra (DYNAF, Curacao).

SMILEs closing panel existed of Smith, Reyes, Ellsmoor, Hamza Kacha (Ministry of Economic Affairs the Netherlands) David Maduro (CX Pay) and was moderated by the Master of Ceremony of the past four SMILE editions, John Sandiford.

For the fourth edition of St Maarten’s best known business fair, new elements were added. Under the moderation of TravelCultureCollab’s Matt Cooper, SMILE’23 expanded with the “SMART Tourism Room” providing an overview of the newest trends, innovation and destination marketing insights. Cooper was assisted by Ms. Jody Diamond of Diamond PR, Noelani Schroy of LodgIQ and Mary Pinto of Reservhotel. Organizers thank the St. Maarten Tourism Bureau (STB) for supporting this part of the event, meant as “Tourism Incubator” to provide insights in global and regional tourism to St. Maarten / St. Martin tourism players. Speakers in this room are amongst others Matt Cooper (TravelCultureCollab), Jody Diamond (Diamond PR), Noelani Schroy (LodgIQ) and Mary Pinto (Reservhotel). As Diamond PR is the representative for St. Maarten in the United States market.

Another addition since SMILEs previous 2022 edition was its SMILE Job Program. With hundreds of vacancies collected amongst St. Maarten private and public sector and NGOs, St. Maarteners looking for a job were received by SMILE and HR personnel of companies and listings of job vacancies. Job seekers were invited to also take part in the over 20 masterclasses at hand in order to further expand knowledge and skills.

To optimize matchmaking, calls were made and mailings were done to all job seekers provided by the National Employment Services Center (NESC). R4CR Foundation assisted in making the SMILE addition possible.

The event also served to kick off the upcoming St. Maarten Flavors month of reduced price signature dishes; a special corner including main sponsor the St. Maarten Bureau highlighted this campaign putting St. Maarten in the limelight as a culinary destination.

SHTA thanks Grant Thornton, The Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth & Sport (MECYS) Dynaf and Recruit a Student; Permanent representation of the Netherlands in Philipsburg, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate of the Netherlands, the Bureau of Intellectual Property, Toppers Rhum, Pelikaan Beer, Central Bank of Curaçao and Sint Maarten, Cxpay, CC1 St. Maarten, Autobev Systems and the University of St. Martin, for supporting SMILEs fourth edition.

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