PHILIPSBURG–Echoing the sentiments of many other non-governmental organisations and the community at large, the St. Maarten Timeshare Association (SMTA) is extremely concerned by the situation at the landfill on Pond Island.
According to SMTA on Friday, the dump is not only a concern when it is obviously smoking and on fire, but also when it is smouldering beneath.
“This toxic smoke affects our residents and visitors alike and directly affects our economy. Over the years, the dump has seen exponential growth and many fires without a short or long-term plan.
“The SMTA still has not heard of any concrete plans from past and present council of ministers or parliament. We hope this is on the agenda, as it needs our urgent attention.
“In the meantime, in the past few weeks, other Caribbean islands have made strides to ban Styrofoam, plastic cups, plates, eating utensils, plastic straws, and one-time-use plastic bags,” stated the association in its press statement.
The group believes that with a weak economy post-Hurricane Irma, the constant burning of the dump will be detrimental to an already unstable tourism market. The potential is there for any of our major markets to take the initiative to issue a travel advisory that has the potential to have more adverse effects on the island than Irma.
“Imagine if Canada, the USA, the Netherlands, France or any other country will give a negative travel advisory for our island (country) what effect that will have on our economy. But even without official issues of advisories from governments of foreign countries the ongoing present situation can strongly affect the economy of our island. Tourists read the comments on the social media, see the pictures of the smoking ‘mountain’ and may decide to choose another destination.
“This also affects our timeshare industry,” said SMTA Chairman Jelle Hamstra. “Timeshare owners can easily exchange their timeshare purchase in St. Maarten for another destination.
“This does not only affect our (timeshare) members but also the rest of our economy, like restaurants, car-rentals, supermarkets, stores, etc., etc.
“It is generally known that more than half of the cruise-ship passengers during their cruise vacation choose an island on their cruise itinerary as their next stayover vacation destination. During the past week and many previous weeks, St. Maarten will certainly not be at the top of that list.”
SMTA believes passengers will tell friends and acquaintances about their negative experience, supported by many photos via WhatsApp, Facebook or in some other way.
“Action has to be taken now. St. Maarten cannot afford to take a lackadaisical stance on this matter. The risk for our local population (health) and our economy has reached to its limit. The time to act has long passed. Let us not aggravate an already explosive situation by being complacent,” concluded the group.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/79467-smta-smoking-dump-affecting-the-economy