MARIGOT–The newly formed Club du Tourisme (formerly association of St. Martin hoteliers) has issued a scathing indictment of the return to border controls, expressing grave concern for the island’s economic future.
In its press release it describes a succession of disasters, starting with Hurricane Irma, after which tourism stakeholders made significant sacrifices, followed by eight months of contentious debate over the early application of the natural risks prevention plan PPRN, which resulted in negative consequences in both human and economic terms. Then two months later, a total shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“A new crisis, return to border controls, has been decided, once again dividing our territory. But the virus (COVID-19) is circulating freely”, the Club states in its release. “Our economy has been bled dry, our environment is scarred, our tourism product is scarred, without respect for the Treaty of Concordia and free access to St. Maarten and vice versa. Our immediate prospect seems to be mass unemployment and debt enslavement.”The Club warned that without a rapid return to public action, not only focused on management of health, regulatory and natural risks (in the short term) and without effective implementation of a development policy adapted to the geographical and cultural reality, tourism and the economy may well disappear in the long term in the northern part of the island, replaced by welfare assistance and impoverishment of the population.
“Tourism professionals in St. Martin know that there are no unilateral health security measures, and we encourage global and regional solidarity in the response to COVID-19. There is no economy without freedom of movement, no individual freedom and no social progress without freedom to work and trade, which requires clients.“Our neighbours in Saint-Barthélemy requested an exemption and we seriously call on the State to show flexibility in the current phase of consultation with Sint Maarten and the Collectivité and on the community to take its responsibilities if necessary.
“If it is not done now, the French side will reopen on November 1 at the latest with no next season. We assure all our members, employees, partners, trainers, associates, suppliers, customers and friends who are suffering physically, psychologically, economically wherever they are, of our support and energy to work together to overcome these challenges”.