SHTA calls on govt. to anticipate economic fallout from COVID-19 | THE DAILY HERALD

PHILIPSBURG–The St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA) said on Thursday that a way needs to be found keep the long-term effects of the widely-spreading coronavirus COVID-19 to a minimum.

  “In what can only be described as a very fluid situation, the SHTA urges government to communicate with and involve the private sector in coming up with a package of measures that will keep our economy from collapsing completely, or at least mitigate the impact,” SHTA said in a statement.

  SHTA said most countries already have advanced plans for reducing the negative economic impacts. “This crisis is not about government, employers, employees or private sector. This crisis will affect all residents and will require all of our efforts to keep the worst socio-economic effects from happening,” SHTA noted.

  “We don’t have accurate numbers of tourism contribution to employment and GDP [gross domestic product – Ed.], but a 2015 study by the world tourism council for Aruba has this at 90 per cent and 88 per cent respectively. St. Maarten will be close to this number. The impact of this drop in tourism to our economy will be significant. Depending on the persistence of this crisis an even more grim scenario could come into play.”

  According to SHTA, mitigating the effects will require quick fiscal action, re-allocation of trust fund resources, several rounds of belt tightening, supporting credit markets both commercial and private, and finding ways to keep a large segment of the population employed so that St. Maarten will be prepared and ready to resume operations when the crisis passes.

  SHTA further warns that blacklisting of St. Maarten and consequential payment difficulties will further exacerbate the crisis. “Anything that can help our economy needs to be done now. That includes passing the required CFATF [Caribbean Financial Action Task Force] legislation through Parliament post-haste.”

  The association expressed hope that the health effects caused by COVID-19 can be kept to a minimum for residents and underlined the importance of remaining as safe and as healthy as possible, following the advice given by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to minimise risk of the virus.


  “We recommend everyone to be careful and try to limit possible exposure as much as possible and continue to follow the hygiene protocols that have been widely disseminated,” SHTA said in its statement.

  SHTA commended government for its ongoing efforts in dealing with this pandemic. As St. Maarten has limited resources, preventing a significant outbreak on-island should be priority number one.

  “Even if we manage to avoid all health consequences for our society of COVID-19, the past 24 hours have made clear that our economy is about to again be severely strained. The volume of stayover bookings for April and May is down by at least 40 per cent compared to last year, and expected by hoteliers to get worse,” SHTA said. “This may mean that anticipated hotel openings get postponed.

  “The most recent announcement regarding airline travel from Europe by the President of the United States and subsequent announcements of cancellations by major cruise lines will have immediate direct economic effects on the island. It is reported that some major cruise lines have suspended world-wide operations for the next 60 days, more will likely follow. Travel in general is slowing and restrictions encourage more people to stay at home.”

  SHTA warned that it will not be able to cope with this prolonged downturn after the continued ill effects of Hurricane Irma. “Government resources will simultaneously be strained by healthcare and social welfare needs.”

Source: The Daily Herald