For many years, members of the St Maarten Hospitality & Trade Association (SHTA) have jointly cooperated on collecting occupancy rates as an economic performance indicator. SHTA compared numbers of before hurricane Irma and 2019 as the last full pre-pandemic year of tourism with 2020 thus far; from the graphs below light blue representing the 100% pre-Irma level and dark blue representing what we’ve experienced these last 6 months. It’s clear that our economic woes are deep. In fact, our over-night capacity is still only at 66% of Pre-Irma levels.
At this point, St. Maarten requires an increase of 650% of activity in the Stay Over sector to achieve pre-Irma levels of activity.
A main question is what will our traditional high season look like; more of what we have now? For many, this will depend on the marketing efforts and strategies of the country. Present levels in the tourism industry are not sustainable for properties. St. Maarten has gone “dark” on all markets, leaving attracting visitors to the destination to individual properties. Our entry protocol was initially confusing, and we have had some negative experiences with guest attempting to arrive. Obtaining the PCR tests is difficult and often expensive for the potential visitor. Yet we could take advantage of the fact that some of our competitors are still closed or have even more restrictive requirements to enter.
In previous disasters, St. Maarten was able to suffer through it do to our diverse tourism base. This pandemic unfortunately is affecting all three of our tourism pillars in the same way. While stayover and timeshare industries are hurt the most, the further combined effect of the lack of cruise passengers and yachting visitors will unfortunately negatively affect all business sectors. The three tourism pillars do not however carry the same risks for the island, and we should set policy and procedures, as well as Marketing efforts to ensure that as a community we can capture as much of the market as is willing to travel.