Economy / When will tourists return to “Friendly Island”?

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We must face the facts, there will be no tourist season in Saint-Martin this year, but the island is already preparing for the future. The survival of its economy is at stake.

A little less than two months after the passage of Irma, Saint-Martin is launched in a reconstruction enterprise. However, the situation is clear to everyone: there will be no tourist season this year. Tourists will not come, first because there are no more hotels available. None are functional and the reconstruction will be long, very long. Residents must wait for insurance decisions, administrative authorizations and materials.

Complex reconstruction approaches

But the procedures are also complicated for material reasons. Some hoteliers cannot provide the documents requested by the administration. "When, for such and such an element, we are told 'We can try to do something for you, send us your Kbis (extracts from the commercial register) and your RIB', the Kbis, we no longer have any , they disappeared. We no longer have an office, we no longer have archives, we no longer have a computer, ”deplores Philippe Thévenet, spokesperson for the hoteliers association.

Almost 2.000 direct or indirect jobs are pending in this sector. Partial unemployment measures have been put in place, but according to professionals, they are not tenable over time. They fear they will face massive layoffs. And companies risk quickly finding themselves in financial difficulty.

Nautical sector companies that offer boat rental are particularly affected.

And for good reason, practically no more boat is viable: 1.200 have been affected, 500 are condemned and the others must be repaired. We are already talking about an operating loss of at least 20 million for this sector this year. Overall, for all of the island's businesses, the interprofessional federation of Saint-Martin is asking the State for more financial and tax assistance to get through this year of inactivity. If refused, it estimates that 1.000 companies, almost a quarter of the island's businesses, could file for bankruptcy.

A communication campaign in preparation

To save these businesses, the return of tourists remains the major challenge for the coming months on the island. If Saint-Martin will disappear for a time from the tourist map, it does not want to be forgotten. In December, the island's tourist office plans to embark on a communication campaign and meet airlines and travel agencies, particularly in France, North America and South America. "We will try to be as honest as possible by saying" This is what Saint Martin was, this is what it is today ", explains Kate Richardson, the director of the tourist office. “It's not going to be just a tourist image campaign, it's going to be a whole country that will say that it wants to rebuild, to rebuild. Certainly, there are a few roofs missing, it is not yet as smooth as it was before, but we will always remain the same, ”she continues.

This message must especially speak to the many regulars on the island, those who return every year, the Americans in particular. These tourists probably came first for the quality of the hotels.

From now on, Saint-Martin hopes to keep a more human contact with them, to make them want to come back as soon as possible.

The appointment is made. Welcome to the "Friendly Island"!  _AF

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