In the spotlight

Hemmie van Xanten

Politician, hotel owner and president of the Board of the Chamber of Commerce & Industry St Eustatius and Saba

Please introduce yourself.

“I grew up in the Netherlands and have had most of my teaching education there but also abroad. After that I’ve worked as a teacher in many countries, like Kenya, Uganda, Malaysia and Brunei, and of course Saba. 

As a member of the island council of the public entity of Saba I am very much involved in issues that directly affect people. Topics such as education, health care, social domain.

Besides that I am this year the president of the Chamber of Commerce for Statia and Saba. This position should be more like a leading role, but has developed into a more involved function, because of the various new developments that we as Chamber have implemented.

Lastly, I am the proud owner of boutique hotel Selera Dunia in Saba.” 

What drives you?

“The enthusiasm to look for new challenges and make them a reality, especially if others believe that it is not possible. These challenges should contribute to the improvement of quality of life for all. For example, during Corona, we started an import business to bring in wholesale groceries from the Netherlands. This has not only helped us to get through the difficult time, but it helped many others as well.

Besides this, I sincerely believe in honesty, equality and prosperity for all, in the most respect to all.

Having lived abroad since 1983 and travelled the world, I have been able to adapt to different cultures and believes. That has shaped me to the person I am today.

I have to admit: Having multiple functions and roles, requires flexibility, creativity and determination to eventually reach my goals, and this is not always easy.”

What do you like about living in Saba?

“The interesting thing of living abroad is the fact that you are able to develop a mindset that is more globally focused. It helps you to see problems in a broader perspective and be able to solve them differently.

I personally feel more free, especially on Saba, than in The Netherlands where I was born. Here on Saba we have a great way of living together in respect and taking care of each other. I experience this on a daily basis.”

What can be challenging about doing business in Saba?

“What makes doing business here a challenge is the fact that Saba has limited banking services, little access to business loans and face a high cost of transportation of goods. Besides challenging, it can be very risky if you haven’t developed a perfect business plan and marketing plan. Seeing the small scale of our islands, your target group should be very clearly specified.

Having a business comes with great responsibility towards yourself but also your employees. It is often not easy to do business on these small islands, but at the end it can be very rewarding. You can be very successful as long as your goal is clear and your mind is open.” 

How do you look back on being a board member of the Chamber so far? 

“Looking back as board member of the Chamber, I can proudly say that we have achieved many positive developments.

As a result of a business trip to Colombia in 2018, I was able to bring in a container with cow skins which was used by the local fishermen to catch lobsters. These skins were sold for far less than the normal price. We were also able to negotiate with the Dutch Government to bring down the yearly contribution for businesses on Statia and Saba. The improvement of communication via Facebook, website and newsletter is fantastic.

The upcoming planned training sessions for businesses will also be a great achievement since this will help companies to improve their professionalism.” 

What advice can you give other (starting) businesses? 

“My advise is to make sure that when you start, you have done your homework, did your research, planning and preparations. After that, your motivation and drive will be the eventual success of your business as long as you stay focused!”