“Technology can bring new economic opportunities, but even more importantly solve societal challenges.” This was the key message of Ruben Polderman, Mobility Project Manager of Amsterdam’s Chief Technology Office, in his presentation to the Sint Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA) membership at their end of year mixer held on Wednesday December 12th. The mixer was hosted by Topper’s Rhum Factory in Cole Bay, which proved to be a very interesting venue, with cocktails made with Topper’s Rhum and delicious catering by Topper’s Simpson Bay Restaurant.
An increasing amount of cities have founded an innovation or technology office in order to cope with the rapid change of societies and economies by technology. The offices deal with systemic change brought forward by new technological innovations like AirBnB, Uber and self-driving cars and try to change challenges into opportunities and new policies. Polderman shared how in many cities self-driving shuttles and self-driving cars already have hit the road. Recently, even Caribbean islands like Aruba are founding comparable offices in order to hedge technology innovations and nudge its citizenship toward more desirably behaviors such as shared rides in doing so.
Polderman enlightened the business community about Amsterdam’s Startup-in-residence program, fostering startup companies helping to create opportunities out of Amsterdam’s challenges. “Amsterdam is growing, but the city can’t handle more cars on the streets. Sint Maarten might need a low-car diet too.” Polderman stated that data gathering is essential to identify new trends and to determine the impact of new technology as well as to determine the best policies for integration. As an example, he stated when the City of Amsterdam brought AirBnB into compliance, not only did they identify necessary usage restrictions such as in low income or subsidized housing areas and to restrict the number of AirBnB nights allowed in certain neighborhoods, but they were also able to double their room tax revenue. A key indicator for gaining a better understanding of AirBnB usage in Amsterdam was not initially suspected missing tax revenue but escalating property values—something that St. Maarten doesn’t even adequately track.
The presentation about new technologies has great connection with SHTA’s successful SMILE event hosted at USM in November. SMILE highlighted how things can be done differently after Irma – most notably with sustainability and innovation. For more information about SMILE visit www.shta.com/SMILE.
The SHTA thanks Mr. Polderman for his interesting and informative presentation and to Topper’s Rhum for their gracious hospitality.