Mon | Oct 23, 2017

#SOTIC2017 | D-Day for Dutch St Maarten

Published:Tuesday | October 10, 2017 | 9:41 AMJanet Silvera
Some of the damage left in St Martin after it was ravaged by Hurricane Irma.On the Dutch side of St Maarten, an estimated 70 per cent of the homes were destroyed by Irma, according to the Dutch government.

St George’s, Grenada:

Grounded by Hurricane Irma, St Maarten’s Princess Juliana Airport will welcome its first scheduled airlines as of today, one month after the severe storm wreaked havoc in the small Dutch Caribbean Island.

The reopening is sentimental to the country as it happens on the day the country celebrates its 70th anniversary. It is also one of two important milestones the island, which lost 70 per cent of its hotel inventory when the storm hit on September 6, will celebrate before the end of the year.

On November 11 - St Maarten Day - Royal Caribbean cruise line will dock its first ship there since the docks were closed as a result of the devastation to the island. The estimated loss is more than US$1 billion.

“American Airlines, Delta, Winair and Seaborne, returns today,” the country’s Director of Tourism, Roland Brison told delegates attending the State of the Tourism Conference (#SOTIC2017) at the Radisson Grenada Beach Resort in St George’s on Monday.

Speaking via Skype, Brison spoke of a resilient and strong nation working diligently to reclaim their share of the tourism pie.

“Hurricane Irma was the hardest ever in 22 years, but we are bouncing back. The beach chairs are back on the beach and the vendors are selling their pina colada and chicken,” he stated, not hiding the fact that there has been a big blow to the country’s largest properties.

“Sonesta and Westin had over 800 rooms in the inventory and they were badly damaged,” he noted.

By end of year he expects the room inventory to be up by the end of 2017, and is encouraged by the large Timeshare audience that the island attracts.

He said spirits were high and electricity was back on more than half of the island.

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com