St. Martin Gives Frank Assessment Of Post-Hurricane Rebuild
Kerry Sharpe, Open Jaw
Representatives from the St. Martin Tourism Office were on-hand at an Atout France event in Toronto last week to spread the word that the island is open for business. But they were also quite frank in discussing the progress of the rebuilding efforts and the current state of affairs.
Pre-Irma, St. Martin had 1,600 hotel rooms, currently that number stands at 300. The hope right now is by the end of 2018, inventory will increase to 800, but for “some of the bigger structures, the ones with the most rooms, it is probably going to take longer – re-opening in mid-2019, or thereabouts,” said Kate Richardson, Director of the St. Martin Tourist Office.
And it is the inventory, or lack thereof, that is one of the biggest roadblocks for those looking to visit the island. “We’ve met with different tour operators and airlines partners [in Canada], have given them updates and they are considering coming back,” continued Richardson. “They need the inventory to come back though, which is kind of tricky [right now], and so we are discussing how to re-launch the destination once we have confirmed opening dates.”
While there has been discussion of late about hotels in the Caribbean re-opening as fast as possible in an attempt to salvage what they can of this winter season, or taking the time to rethink building in a region that is likely the face more severe storms, St. Martin appears to be taking the long view, with more restrictions and safeguards in place to help mitigate damage caused by future storms.
As things stand now, WestJet will commence direct service to St. Martin, twice weekly, effective 23APR. There are no dates yet for Sunwing, Air Canada or Air Transat, however Richardson noted that all those operators expressed a desire to include the destination in their winter 2019 program.
Kerry Sharpe Columnist
Having worked in travel for the last 16 years, Kerry has experience covering the industry as media, as well as being under its lens when she worked for Thomas Cook, TravelBrands and itravel2000. A new mom, Kerry recently returned to the workforce and when she’s not chasing after her daughter, you’ll see her out and about covering industry events alongside her new BFF Tina the Travel Agent.